Malaysian labour market is a big opportunity for Bangladesh. Bangladeshi migrant workers are happy with the working environment there and they feel like home while the local employers are also satisfied with their performance and services.
The Malaysian labour market reopened back for Bangladeshi workers in 2022 through the sincere efforts of both nations, but the monopolistic business practices and interference of Bestinet have become a serious threat to this sector’s rich potential.
The Foreign Workers Centralised Management System (FWCMH), owned by Bestinet, is now controlling every aspect of the labour recruitment process to Malaysia through quota approval, auto-rotation of demands, MiGRAMS, e-Visa, calling visa, medical check-ups and attestation.
This is causing the aspirant workers’ migration costs to skyrocket — in some cases the amount even crosses Tk 4 lakh, increasing the time needed to complete the procedures by at least three months, and preventing the agencies from covering the actual demand of workers in Malaysia, while hampering the whole recruitment process.
According to the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) fair recruitment guidelines, only the Responsible Business Alliance-listed companies can recruit foreign workers if all of their expenses are paid. But under the Bestinet system, such companies in Malaysia cannot recruit from Bangladesh.
Thousands of Bangladeshi workers are missing out on employment opportunities at top Malaysian companies due to the Bestinet system, which in turn is leaving both the employers and the aspirant migrants in a heap of trouble.
Recruiting agencies from 13 source countries, including Nepal, receive work orders directly from Malaysian employers. But this is not the case for Bangladesh.
Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BARIA) Secretary General Ali Haider Chowdhury told The Business Post, “This monopolised system is against the spirit of our Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Honourable Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.”
On February 8, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said that the Malaysian home ministry should stop using agents (Bestinet) in the foreign workers’ recruitment process to reduce the migration cost.
For example, the cost is only RM 3,700 for workers from Nepal. But for Bangladesh and Indonesia, they each involve a cost of between RM 20,000 and RM 25,000, he said, according to Malaysian media reports.
Veteran manpower recruiter Ali Haider urged the Malaysian government to break the monopoly created by FWCMS and open the market for Bangladeshi workers like the 13 other sourcing countries.
Amin controls the whole system
In grabbing the whole business and making a hefty profit by holding migrant workers hostage, Bestinet owner Dato Sri Aminul Islam Bin Abdul Nor and his cohorts are involved in all sort of business required to enter the Malaysian job market.
Amin has businesses in health screening, registration of workers, quota approval, auto-rotation, e-Visa, calling visa, workers registration in MiGRAMS and attestation.
As a result, the process of Bangladeshi workers’ migration to Malaysia has become complex, lengthy and costlier. This has put the potential of labour market at risk despite a good relation between Bangladesh and Malaysia based on good intention.
Quota approval: First step of monopolisation controlled by FWCMS
Bestinet’s monopolisation of the Malaysian labour market starts with the FWCMS e-quota approval stage.
This is the first step and an online system where an employer places Bangladeshi workers’ demands for his company for approval of the Malaysian authority.
An employer has no other option but need to place his required demand for approval through the e-recruitment portal, owned and fully
controlled by Dato Amin.
According to sources, at the beginning of the opening of Malaysian market for Bangladeshi workers, Amin bagged 450 million Ringgit by giving approval to the order demands for 3 lakh order. He earned 1,500 ringgit for each demand approval.
Auto-rotation of demands: Prime key of monopolisation
When an employer gets approval for the demand he placed, the FWCMS auto-distribution tool is used to create a monopoly between several Bangladeshi recruiting agencies.
Using the online system, Dato Amin distributes those demands only to the agencies that are in cahoots with Bestinet by manipulating the system.
Even if the employers communicate with top Bangladeshi agencies to ensure easy recruitment, they still have to place their demand into the Bestinet-controlled auto rotation system.
Due to this faulty system, the demands of a recruiting agency can go to another one that may not even be involved in the process in any way and does not have adequate infrastructure. There are even agencies that have no experience in sending workers to Malaysia.
The agency which originally sourced the work order must pay around Tk 1.5 lakh or 5,500 ringgit per worker to another agency that got the contract as a service charge. Only Bangladesh has this faulty auto-rotation system in place and it does exist for the other sourcing countries.
Because of this faulty system, there is no equal or ethical distribution. And this is only happening so that Amin and his allies can make money by monopolising the market.
In the Amin-controlled auto-rotation system, a capable recruiting agency receives the demand for fewer workers while less capable agencies receive the demands for larger number of workers.
“It is happening at the Malaysian end. FWCMS is not a fair system and this auto-rotation does not exist anywhere in the world,” BAIRA leader Ali Haider told The Business Post.
“Businesses demand professional competition. Employers must have the opportunity to choose the agency that is capable of meeting their demand for workers on time and at a low cost.
“There is a high demand for workers in Malaysia but this system is not letting the employers hire the number of workers they want,” he added.
Amin pocketed Tk 162cr through MiGRAM registration
Malaysian authorities have set RM 100 (around Tk 2,700) as each prospective worker’s registration fee in MiGRAMS for health screening.
The Bestinet arbitrarily completed the registration of more than 6 lakh Bangladeshis until the first week of January. Using the MiGRAMS tool, the company has grabbed at least Tk 162 crore in the name of workers’ registration from these 6 lakh people.
Only 60,000 of them have managed to get visas and travel to Malaysia, according to the BAIRA.
Though the fee was supposed to be paid by the employers, Amin is taking this money from workers through agencies that he has ties to in Bangladesh.
“Recruiting agencies affiliated with him supplied the workers for MiGRAMS registration to fund Dato Amin. The registration fee is supposed to be paid after the calling visa is issued,” said former BAIRA secretary general Shamim Ahmed Chowdhury Noman.
In a letter, on September 27 last year, the Malaysian foreign ministry informed the Bangladesh High Commission to Kuala Lumpur that each worker’s 100 ringgit registration fee to MiGRAMS shall be paid by recruitment agencies in Bangladesh.
However, Bangladesh has no official dedicated system for paying such fees to a foreign entity – which in this case is Bestinet.
BAIRA Senior Vice President Noman Chowdhury said, “We don’t want to burden the workers with this fee. Besides, how would we pay it to a foreign company? We have no procedure for this. According to the MoU signed between the two countries, the employers must pay this fee.”
Tk 450cr bagged through selected medical centres
Sector insiders said Bestinet owner Dato Amin and his Bangladeshi associate Ruhul Amin Shawpon have illegally bagged over Tk 450 crore by manipulating the medical test trade through some selective medical centres.
In this case, they used the MiGRAMS portal, which is also owned by Bestinet, as the tool.
Medical centres controlled by Shawpon and Amin tested 6 lakh workers who completed MiGRAMS registration. This means they logged 10 tests on average against each aspirant migrant.
For health screening, which is required for entering the Malaysian job market, a worker has to pay Tk 7,500. This means the aspirant workers have already paid Tk 450 crore to Amin and his cohorts since they run these medical centres.
Meanwhile, a worker has to go through multiple middlemen and pay money in different layers to successfully get a health check-up. In addition, they also have transportation and other expenses that push up their migration costs. This is a side effect of Bestinet’s monopolistic business practice, insiders said.
The Foreign Workers Medical Examination Programme (FOMEMA) is the only authorised body in Malaysia to examine the health of foreign workers.
So primary health screening must be done at a Bangladesh government-approved medical centre, not at the Bestinet-approved centres.
Controlling calling visas by manipulating medical tests
Bestinet does not directly control the Calling Visa but it does influence the process through the MiGRAMS portal.
The medical reports of many workers do not reach FWCMS and that obstructs them from getting calling visas. The medical check-ups also have a mismatch rate of around 40 per cent.
“The corruption and monopolisation started from the e-recruitment process through FWCMS and registration in MiGRAMS.
“Monopolisation and corruption at all stages including calling visa issuance and e-Visa issuance are just the consequences,” said BAIRA Secretary General Haider.
Bestinet controls e-Visa process through MEFC
When Malaysian authorities issue a calling visa for a worker, a visa centre transforms it into an e-Visa. Malaysia has approved seven private companies to carry out this process.
Of them, only the Malaysian Employment Facilitation Centre (MEFC) — also owned and controlled by Dato Amin — issues e-Visas to Malaysia-bound workers.
Seeking anonymity, a senior BAIRA leader told The Business Post, “Although the authorised fee is Tk 3,300 for issuing each e-Visa, MEFC is charging Tk 4,629.
“Moreover, it’s blackmailing Bangladeshi workers by demanding Tk 50,000 from each after they submit their passports for e-visa. In case of failure to pay extra and denial by agencies, MEFC seizes the passports.”
Issuance of e-Visa also used to take around one to three days, but now it takes the MEFC’s Dhaka office around 20-25 days.
Amin also controls attestation through e-embassy portal of FWCMS
FWCMS has an attestation portal for Bangladeshi workers seeking employment in Malaysia. But this is not the case for Nepal.
Although attestation is the sole responsibility of Bangladesh, Bestinet is pushing the use of FWCMS.
“We have no other way. We have to go through FWCMS and submit the necessary documents online. There is no way to bypass it if you want to continue your business in Malaysia,” said a recruiting agency owner, requesting anonymity.
What do experts say?
“A massive change is needed in the current recruiting process and all the discriminatory clauses in the MoU must be revised,” said CR Abrar, the executive director of the non-profit organisation Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit, which has been working on this issue closely for years.
“The quota approval and auto-rotation have been introduced in the recruitment process to monopolise the business. This is causing delays and increasing migration costs significantly,” he told The Business Post.
Echoing Abrar, WARBE Development Foundation-Bangladesh Chairman Syed Saiful Haque said, “Migration costs must be monitored, and all the tools that facilitate monopoly and high cost should be dismantled.”
Both nations agree on change
Meanwhile, Bangladesh and Malaysia have agreed to jointly review the MoU, signed back in December 2021, in a bid to reduce migration costs and speed up manpower exports.
The decision was made at a meeting of Malaysian Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail and Bangladesh Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmed at the latter’s office in Dhaka on February 5, the last day of Ismail’s two-day visit.
Talking to reporters later that day, Ismail said, “We have agreed that there is an urgent need for the senior officials of two nations to sit down and look into the content of the MoU, which needs to be revised, reviewed or revoked.”
Imran said, “I can tell you, good things are on the way, and it will not take a long time.”
The Business Post tried to reach out to Dato’ Sree Amin for comments on the matter, but he did not respond till the filing of this report.