Lawmakers and manpower exporters on Saturday came down heavily on the syndication of manpower business in the Malaysian labour market.
They said the syndicate comprising only 25 recruiters would create huge losses for Bangladesh amid depleting foreign exchange reserves.
Besides, they said the syndicate members are strong and influential but the government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is stronger to thwart their ill attempts for the sake of transparency and open competition among all recruiters.
They were speaking at a roundtable organised by the Anti-Syndicate Grand Alliance of the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) at Sheraton Dhaka in the capital.
Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment Anisul Islam Mahmud said many powerful people are involved in the 25 recruiting agencies and they are pressuring the prime minister to form the syndicate.
“But it is not happening because she [the prime minister] does not agree,” he said.
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Anisul, also a former expatriates’ welfare minister, said the Malaysian labour market opening decision had come six months ago after a long time and lots of effort.
But sending workers to the Southeast Asian country could not be started even today due to the ill attempts of the syndicate, he said.
“Those favouring the syndicate are against Bangladesh. Migration costs will increase a lot if the syndicate is formed, and poor would-be migrants will suffer.”
Anisul called on BAIRA members to take a strong stand against this.
“Malaysian plantations, rubber factories, and industries face a labour crisis. Maybe there is also a big pressure on them to recruit workers. Nonetheless, we do not want a syndicate to send workers to Malaysia,” he noted.
Former BAIRA president Mohd Noor Ali said if the syndicate of the 25 recruiting agencies is beneficial for the country, then let it be formed.
“But this syndicate will cause the country great losses. Only 25 agencies will not be able to send 15-20 lakh workers per year as per Malaysia’s demand,” he said.
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He said migration costs would be higher than the latest figures if the syndicate was formed and it would take migrants at least two years to recover this cost by working abroad.
There are 536 recruiting agencies in Malaysia and they all can hire workers from Bangladesh, Noor Ali said.
“But there are about 1,800 recruiting agencies in Bangladesh, and not all of them will be able to send workers to Malaysia if the syndicate is formed. It is not fair,” he said.
“Our government will see whether the recruiting agencies in Bangladesh are good or bad. How did the Malaysian human resources minister know only 25 agencies are good and the rest are bad? This proves that corruption has taken place here.”
Mentioning that FWCMS owner Dato Amin is leading the syndicate from Malaysia, Noor Ali said the Mahathir government stopped hiring Bangladeshi workers because of this man’s corruption.
“By forming a syndicate with Dato Amin, its members laundered thousands of crores of taka. We have an audio call record regarding this. They said they would form a syndicate again even if that requires thousands of crores of taka,” he said.
“Everyone is asking to reduce migration costs, but how can that be done? What has our ministry done to reduce costs? The government has set no limit on migration costs. The ministry can fix migration costs in just 30 days if it wants,” the country's top manpower businessman further said.
Malaysia was Bangladesh's second largest manpower export market until it was shut down in 2018 by the Mahathir government due to the activities of the syndicate.
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The country later showed interest in hiring Bangladeshis again to meet the demand for workers. Bangladesh signed a memorandum of understanding with Malaysia in this regard in December last year. But even in five months, sending workers could not be started due to the activities of the syndicate.
The anti-syndicate manpower exporters said the 25 recruiting agencies led by former BAIRA secretary Ruhul Amin Swapan are trying to persuade top government officials in Malaysia and Bangladesh to create a monopoly in sending Bangladeshi workers.
They said the name of Dato Amin came up again and again in the Malaysian labour market for corruption and irregularities and he is known to be close to Malaysian human resources minister Saravanan Murugan.
Moreover, they said 13 countries export manpower to Malaysia besides Bangladesh. Even though there is a single policy for those countries, Malaysia is trying to use a different one for hiring Bangladeshis.
They further said the Malaysian human resources ministry does not want to allow Bangladeshi workers to be sent by recruiting agencies other than the 25 while there are allegations that Dato Amin has persuaded the Malaysian human resources minister by giving bribes.
AK Azad, former president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, told the programme it is clear from various activities that the syndicate is very strong and its illegal money has been distributed in various places.
That is why all BAIRA members must take a strong stand against this dishonest syndicate, he said.
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Bhorer Kagoj Editor Shyamal Dutta said every step to migrate from Bangladesh involves massive corruption.
“Why do the poor suffer so much? The government is facing a dollar crisis now. Foreign trips of government officials are being cancelled to handle the crisis,” he said.
“But Malaysia is a big market for us to earn foreign currency in the form of remittance. There is no doubt that top government officials are involved in the syndicate. They are doing this by taking bribes.”
Joining the programme online, National Association of Private Employment Agencies Malaysia Secretary General Dr Sukumaran Nair said the Malaysian government is also against the syndicate.
“We all are looking for a transparent recruiting process because there is a lot of demand for workers in our country now. We want to hire workers from Bangladesh in a transparent process as soon as possible.”
Former BAIRA president Abul Bashar said the Ruhul Amin Swapan-Dato Amin gang had laundered thousands of crores of taka from Bangladesh.
“They want syndication to raise migration costs. It will then be easier for them to launder more money.”
Member of Parliament Shamim Haider Patwary, former BAIRA president Golam Mostafa, former BAIRA secretary generals Shamim Ahmed Chowdhury and Riaz Ul Islam, and migration expert Shariful Hassan also spoke at the programme, among others.
Former BAIRA secretary general Ali Haider Chowdhury presided over the roundtable.