Ending all speculation, the first batch of Bangladeshi workers is heading towards Malaysia tonight.
Taking off time of an AirAsia flight carrying some 53 migrant workers from Dhaka’s Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) for Kuala Lumpur is around 11:30 pm, said Md Shahidul Alam, Director General of the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET).
These 53 workers are going on the flight to work as factory workers for Jimat Jaya SDN BHD Company in Malaysia. All of them are going through the Bangladeshi recruiting agency, Catharsis International (RL No 0549).
Several hundred more Bangladeshi workers have been scheduled to fly to other Malaysian companies, including Jimat Jaya, in the next few days.
Through this, labour market stakeholders believe that the long-standing obstacles for Bangladeshi workers in the Malaysian labour market are going to be removed.
According to sources at the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment, primary permission for these 53 workers for Jimat Jaya Company was given in April this year.
On the same day, a total of 125 people were sanctioned for Catharsis International, including 110 people for Jimat Jaya Company and 15 people for Rainbow Paper Supply Company.
Through this group of workers, the Malaysian labour market is reopening this time after a 45-month pause.
Mohammad Zahirul Islam, Labour Counselor at the Bangladesh High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, said, "There is a lot of demand for Bangladeshi workers in various sectors in Malaysia. Already, about 400 companies have applied for the recruitment of workers from Bangladesh. We are verifying recruitment applications and attesting their documents quickly. These workers will soon come from Bangladesh."
After the Malaysian government agreed to receive workers from Bangladesh for five government and private sectors following a G2G Plus process, both countries signed a memorandum of understanding in 2016.
The five-year contract allowed 10 workforce export agencies to send workers.
But Malaysia suspended hiring Bangladeshi workers in September 2018 over widespread allegations of malpractices in the recruitment process and charging higher costs from labourers by recruitment agencies through middlemen.
The government there also announced that it would launch a new policy restricting excessive charges and harassment of labourers.
After a long negotiation with the Bangladesh government amid the worker shortage due to the coronavirus pandemic, Malaysia decided to bring in workers from Bangladesh and the two countries signed an MoU in this regard on December 19, last year.
But dillydallying was not leaving the process of sending workers to the Malaysian labour market for a long time. The Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment and the High Commission of Malaysia spent a long time for fixing the number of agencies.
Instead of verifying the demand letters of Malaysian employers, the ministry focused on approving the medical centres, ensuring the recruitment of workers through the BMET data bank, and coordinating between the new system of the ministry and Malaysia.
As a result, Malaysian employers even began thinking about recruiting workers from Nepal. But after overcoming all obstacles, the door to sending manpower to Malaysia through today’s flight is now reopened.
During the visit of Malaysian Human Resource Minister M Saravanan to Bangladesh in June, the two countries decided to remove all obstacles to labour migration in a meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG).
Then Expatriate Welfare Minister Imran Ahmad expected that migrant workers would go to Malaysia by that month, but it did not happen.
According to the MoU, Malaysia would take in 500,000 workers in five years. "They are supposed to take in 200,000 workers this year, but it seems all 500,000 workers will go this year," the minister said.
Each of the workers will earn a minimum of 1500 Malaysian Ringgit (Tk 32,000). As per the terms and conditions, their contract is for 3 years. They will be offered free one-way airfare, accommodation, and transportation, but they have to bear the expense of food.