The Bangladesh expatriate welfare and overseas employment ministry has reiterated its position against any sort of agent syndication in manpower export to Malaysia after both countries signed an MoU to send workers last month.
Responding to a letter sent by the Malaysian Human Resource Minister M Saravanan on 14 January, Bangladesh Expatriate Welfare Minister Imran Ahmed in his letter mentioned that they were in favour of all valid recruiting agencies in Bangladesh to send workers to Malaysia.
Earlier, the Malaysian minister in his letter urged his Bangladeshi counterpart to initiate the process of sending workers to Malaysia through 25 Bangladesh Recruitment Agencies (BRA) and 250 sub-agencies.
The letter established that the Malaysian government wants "syndication" of recruiters in manpower export from Bangladesh.
Bangladeshi recruiters, however, alleged that this syndication was being demanded for some parties to get undue favours.
Rejecting the formation of a syndicate, Minister Imran in his letter said, "I want to reiterate that, Bangladesh is always in favour of transparent, fair and safe migration, as per relevant charters of the International Labor Organisation (ILO) and our Competition Act 2012, keeping the opportunities open to all the valid licensed Bangladeshi Recruiting Agencies (BRA) as mentioned in Chapter C (v) and C (vi) of Appendix B of the MOU.
"According to the provision, the Government of Malaysia shall select BRA automatically through the online system from the list provided by the government of Bangladesh, and Government of Malaysia shall ensure transparency and fairness in the selection and distribution of the quota," it added.
Imran suggested an early meeting of the Joint Working Group to start the recruitment process.
Last 19 December, M Saravanan and Imran Ahmed signed a new five-year labour recruitment agreement that lifted a freeze imposed since Sept 1, 2018.
A syndicate of 10 Bangladeshi agencies were involved in manpower exporting to the emerging Asian economy at the time. Those agencies were widely criticised for their irregularities.
Following the recent agreement, Malaysia is expected to start importing new manpower from Bangladesh soon.
Both the governments, however, did not disclose specific terms of the MoU, including recruitment costs and whether there is a limit on the number of Bangladesh recruitment agencies permitted to send their workers to Malaysia.
Manpower recruiters in Bangladesh have been demanding not to initiate any syndication of agencies in the process. A portion of recruiters also sent a letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in this regard last week.
In Malaysia, migrant rights group Tenaganita were among those who had urged the government to disclose the MoU terms, raising concerns over the possible revival of an alleged "syndicate" which had in the past been held responsible for high recruitment costs and other labour abuses.
Malaysia-based migrant workers' rights specialist Andy Hall told The Business Standard that there were issues with how BRAs were selected on the approved list, alleging abuse of political powers in Bangladesh and Malaysia at the expense of migrant workers and employers.
Without more transparency in the process, Hall said the new recruitment process risks being a revival of past schemes that ultimately contributed to issues of debt bondage and labour exploitation.