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Migrant Worker Scam: Malaysia government’s move gives Nepal hope

  • Crackdown on Bangladeshi firms’ cartel
- CHANDAN KUMAR MANDAL, Kathmandu

Jun 24, 2018-

After the government launched a crackdown on agencies charging hefty fees from outbound Nepali workers, the Malaysian government has clamped down on agencies engaged in similar anomalies.

After finding out that some agencies had maintained a cartel to fleece Malaysia-bound Bangladeshi workers, Malaysia has decided to shut down the set-up providing visa processing and hiring services online.

An investigative report published by the Malaysian daily The Star on its website on Friday showed that a syndicate maintained by a Bangladeshi businessman having political connections with both the countries was allegedly operating a human trafficking scheme that exploited Bangladeshis.

This has been perceived as a positive step of the newly elected government in Malaysia towards solving the problem facing migrant workers, including Nepalis, on its soil.

A high-level source said the Malaysian move against the syndicate troubling migrant workers has sent a clear message of its intent to end the exploitation of migrant workers in the recruitment phase.

The Nepal government also recently closed various agencies offering visa processing services to Malaysia bound Nepali workers after charging additional fees against its policy.

Before the agencies faced action, Nepali workers would pay an additional Rs18,480 for MiGRAMS, biometric medical test, services of One Stop Centre operated by Malaysia VLN Nepal Pvt Ltd during visa processing, and Immigration Security Clearance, conducted by GSG Services Nepal.

“Workers from both the countries have been cheated financially by the organised syndicate. It shows the problem faced by Bangladeshi workers and Nepali workers is similar,” said an official, adding that the government expected the Malaysian authority to resolve issues concerning Nepali workers too. “If they can address the concerns of Bangladeshi workers, they should also pay similar attention to our workers.”

Nepal has already drawn the attention of the Malaysian authority to the problem through the diplomatic channel. The Star probe claimed that the syndicate raked in at least 2 billion ringgit in two years from Bangladeshi workers applying for Malaysian jobs. According to the newspaper, the workers paid RM20,000 (nearly 550,000 rupees) each to their local agents who then gave half of the sum to the syndicate for facilitating work permit approvals and flight tickets to Malaysia.

The cartel is said to have come on board after the businessman, due to his strong political influence in both countries, played his part in getting a government-to-government agreement between Malaysia and Bangladesh in 2016, The Star reported.

Following the G2G deal, only 10 companies from Bangladesh were appointed to hire and supply Bangladeshi workers to Malaysia, resulting in a syndicate. Furthermore, an online system called Foreign Worker Application System (SPPA) was set up to oversee the operation and facilitation of the visa procedure.

The SPPA, operated by a private company called Bestinet Sdn Bhd, would charge employers RM305 for each Bangladeshi worker hired via their system.

Then the money collected under the SPPA would go the Bestinet as a service charge for distribution of workers among employers via the 10 companies, according to The Star. Bestinet had also developed the Foreign Workers Centralised Management System (FWCMS), used by the Immigration Department to process foreign workers’ visa applications.

The Star reported that since late 2016, more than 100,000 Bangladeshi workers have been brought into the country under the system, making it a multi-billion ringgit scam. After the scam was reported on the local media, the government has closed the system recruiting Bangladeshi workers.

Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran was quoted by The Star as saying, “This suspension will last until a full investigation has been completed into allegations that a syndicate was operating it as a human trafficking scheme to exploit these workers. The previous administration managed the whole recruitment process like a business aimed at benefiting certain individuals.”

Published: 24-06-2018 08:06

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