THE proposition that an unknown number of Bangladeshis could be among the 500 undocumented expatriates arrested in Malaysia on Friday, as New Age reported on Sunday, when the Malaysian immigration police began a crackdown on illegal immigrants on the expiry of an amnesty, which created a scope for their legalisation, granted for two years and a half, is worrying. Bangladesh’s Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training says that about a million Bangladeshi workers have gone to Malaysia since 1976 while many of them have returned, a greater number of Bangladeshis have been in the country through illegal means. While Bangladeshi workers are the highest in number to have grabbed the legalisation opportunity, as New Age reported quoting a Bangladeshi diplomat in Malaysia, officials and migrant rights activists in both Malaysia and Bangladesh think, in the absence of any specific data on undocumented Bangladesh, that the number of illegal Bangladeshis in Malaysia could be about a million. The situation becomes worrying as Malaysia’s immigration director general says that there would be no further deadline extension this time and the department has deployed all its enforcement personnel for the success of the operation.
A situation like this warrants that Dhaka should hold diplomatic negotiations with Kuala Lumpur to find out how many of the arrested are Bangladeshis and how many Bangladeshis are illegal there. Dhaka should also afford consular services to the arrested, and any other who would be arrested in the ongoing operation, so that the arrested do not suffer unnecessarily. The Bangladesh government has the responsibility to look after their well-being on a foreign land. But on top of all, Dhaka should try so that Kuala Lumpur extends the legalisation deadline creating scopes for Bangladeshis still illegal in Malaysia to be legalised. Besides, many of the Bangladeshis, working after being trapped in Malaysia, are victims of human trafficking syndicates that have connections in both the countries. The Bangladesh government should also try so that the victims of human trafficking, arrested in the operation, could not be wrongly treated. The reason often reported for many illegal Bangladeshis, mostly working in Malaysia’s remote areas, not being legalised is that some syndicates take money from them for the job but get away with the money, leaving the workers pauperised. Both the Malaysian and the Bangladesh governments have the responsibility to find out such syndicates and hold them to justice.
The Bangladesh government, under the circumstances, must first hold talks with Malaysia for consular services for the arrested. It must also talk with Malaysia so that the deadline for legalisation can be extended and, at the same time, find out the illegal Bangladeshis and ask its high commission there to make arrangement so that they come forward to be legalised. While the Bangladesh government should initiate talks with the government of Malaysia about bringing the syndicates of human trafficking to justice, Dhaka must attend to the problem of Bangladeshis going to Malaysia, and other countries, illegally.
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