Profiting from the recruitment and exploitation of migrant workers

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Deficiencies such as the role of unscrupulous rehiring agents, corrupt officials, irresponsible employers and convoluted processes have been repeatedly highlighted, ad nauseam by Tenaganita.

The recent story/reports implicating former Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as benefiting from the registration of migrant workers in Malaysia is worrying, and if found true, is real cause for apprehension and concern.

Kleptocracy in the country has been a distressing issue for many decades and a huge obstruction and hindrance to the development of the nation.

Back in January 2017, MP Steven Sim highlighted the fact that Bestinet, a controversial, previously suspended company said to be owned by Umno leaders, was fully involved in the issuance of visas for migrant workers from Nepal through the BioMedical and the eVDR (“visa dengan rujukan”) programme.

Bestinet was accused of using the Foreign Workers Centralised Management System (FWCMS) as a vehicle to skim off money from the poor migrant workers. The alleged “government-sponsored” scheme has reportedly netted 5bn Nepali rupees (RM185m) from migrant workers over the past five years allegedly for the benefit of a former deputy prime minister, former home minister and other cronies.

What is distressing is that the basic structure used to fleece migrant workers seeking work in Malaysia still seems to be well entrenched despite calls for high-level inter-departmental investigations and even for a royal commission of inquiry into the matter. This is evidently a shortfall in appropriate monitoring of the handling of the resources gained from such registrations.

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The involvement of government-appointed monopolistic, profiteering entities like Besitnet and One Stop Centre in the issuance of work visas for migrant workers is only one of the many weaknesses plaguing foreign worker recruitment, management policy and practices in Malaysia.

Deficiencies such as the role of unscrupulous rehiring agents, corrupt officials, irresponsible employers and convoluted processes have been repeatedly highlighted, ad nauseam by Tenaganita, and by conscientious parliamentarians such as Charles Santiago and Steven Sim, so much so it is pointless to repeat them here.

But, once again, we want to re-emphasise that the lack of clarity and transparency in the registration schemes that were established by the previous government has always been a key area of concern, followed by the nature of the privatisation of the migrant registration process.

The fees incurred by each migrant, from the actual registration to simple services such as document collection and online information access, have risen to exorbitant rates causing extreme burden to workers and contributing to human trafficking and scam incidents.

For far too long, migrant workers have been viewed simply as commodities, without rights or dignity as human persons, to be transacted for profit and exploited for their labor. This is so apparent with the current Ops Mega 3.0, which indiscriminately hunts down undocumented migrant workers without any attempt to understand the reasons for being undocumented.

The operation appears to be nothing more than a pandering to the xenophobic fears of a uninformed public to garner political mileage while laying the groundwork for a new set of actors to profit from a system that remains corrupt, exploitative and unjust.

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With such extreme fees and stringent enforcement of immigration policies, it is a wonder if any of these costs borne by migrant workers are at all being channelled equitably to the protection of their labour and human rights while working in Malaysia.

It was hoped that the government of Malaysia baru would take steps to humanise the management of migrant workers but unfortunately, government agencies such as the Immigration Department seem determined to maintain the same corrupt, inhumane, unjust and failed policies practised under the former government.

Unless the government begins to act decisively and fearlessly to root out every vestige of corruption, inefficiency and xenophobia in dealing with migrant workers, Malaysia will rapidly regress into the ranks of nations that are viewed with contempt and disdain which have no moral authority to speak about human rights or human dignity.

Tenaganita once again states its readiness to work with all relevant government agencies in reviewing existing migrant worker policies and practices as well as the processes and entities involved in the registration of the migrant population, so that improvements may begin to be made to put in place more efficient and justifiable systems to benefit all stakeholders involved.

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Fami Isa

That what umno is about.