The number of arrested undocumented Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia rose to 1,266 till Sunday as the country continued its crackdown on illegal foreign workers since June 30.
A total of 3,506 illegal workers have been rounded up by Malaysian Immigration Department during the Ops Mega conducted nationwide, according to The Star, Malaysian daily published the news on Sunday.
The crackdown started after the deadline for the E-Card (enforcement card) registration ended on June 30, the report says.
Local migrants’ rights campaigners and migration experts have expressed grave concern over the increasing arrest of Bangladeshis in the East Asian country.
They have urged the government of Bangladesh to immediately communicate with the Malaysian government to resolve the problem.
According to Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training, nearly eight lakh Bangladeshi workers have gone to work in Malaysia since 1978.
However, many Bangladeshis have gone to the country through sea route without documents while many went on student and tourist visas and became illegal there after visa expiry.
Expatriates welfare and overseas employment minister Nurul Islam on Sunday claimed that the Malaysian authorities stopped crackdowns on illegal Bangladeshi workers.
‘I have asked the Malaysian authorities to stop the arrest as the rehiring programme continues until December,’ he said replying to a question at a seminar at Probashi Kalyan Bhaban.
The Malaysian newspaper quoted its immigration director-general Mustafar Ali as saying that a total of 699 premises involving 10,893 people were checked so far.
The highest 1,266 arrested illegal workers are from Bangladesh, followed by 899 from Indonesia, 297 from Myanmar, 131 from Thailand, 120 from Vietnam, 95 from Philippines and 698 from other countries.
‘The operations have been conducted in areas involving five sectors that require foreign workers – construction, plantation, services, manufacturing and agriculture.
‘The areas inspected also include housing, construction sites, factories, business premises and food outlets. We raided all areas,’ Mustafar said on Friday.
He said some foreign security officers were also detained in the operation for not having proper documentation.
Mustafar said 75 employers were also detained and would be charged under the Immigration Act for hiring illegal workers.
The E-Card programme was launched on February 15 to provide undocumented workers a chance to be legalised.
Bangladesh officials in Kuala Lumpur and Dhaka said that the Malaysian government started the E-Card registration for those migrants who arrived or entered the country through sea routes or crossing borders without having any document.
BMET director general Md Salim Reza said that those Bangladeshis who took E-Cards should immediately take their passports and other documents from the Bangladesh mission in Kuala Lumpur to process their legalisation in Malaysia.
Bangladesh high commission in Malaysia said that over 2.5 lakh Bangladeshis so far were legalised under the rehiring programme since February 2016.
A senior diplomat told New Age that Bangladeshi workers who arrived in Malaysia with tourist or student visas became illegal after their visa period expired.
A good number of workers who went to Malaysia with so-called professional visas were also in fear of arrest in the country, he added.
Dhaka University professor of international relations CR Abrar said that the Malaysian government’s crackdown was applicable for all undocumented foreign nationals staying in that country.
As the Malaysian government repeatedly announced the deadline of the E-Card and its deadline would not be extended, the crackdown was logical, he observed.
He said the Bangladesh government might have requested the Malaysian government to stop arresting Bangladeshis, but nobody knew if or not the Malaysian government heeded to the request.
Professor Abrar, also executive director of Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit, said that due to varying statements from the ministry, a ‘mixed signal’ was going to the workers.
On professionals and student visas, Abarar said that Malaysian high commission in Dhaka was responsible to scrutinise the documents and provide authentic visas.
As Malaysia had a huge need of foreign workers, the country continued to recruit them, he said, adding that if the legal channels were closed, workers would be recruited through illegal channels
Migrant rights’ body WARBE Development Foundation’s secretary general Faruque Ahmed sought intervention of prime minister Sheikh Hasina to halt the arrest of the Bangladeshi migrant workers in Malaysia.
Referring to media reports, he said that many Bangladeshis were passing miserable days in jungles in Malaysia to avoid arrest.
‘Bangladesh government should give top priority to solving the issue as several lakh Bangladeshis were employed in Malaysia and they were contributing to the national economy,’ said Faruque, also an experienced returned migrant.
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