Press Statement

Questionable motives and benefits in bringing in 1.5 million migrant workers

12 August 2015


Lawyers for Liberty views with extreme concern the government’s plan to bring in 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers over the next three years when clearly its migrant workers management, policies and laws are in dire need of serious reform after decades of mishandling and abuse.


It is all the more of serious concern when it was revealed that Real Time Networking Sdn Bhd, one of the companies bidding to provide a registration and management system for these workers is owned by Home Minister Zahid Hamidi’s brother Abdul Hakim Hamidi, surely a clear case of conflict of interest and nepotism.


Questions must surely be asked if Malaysia really do need these workers, whether a study was done to justify the number of workers required in the next three years and for the various sectors or are they being brought in so that others can profit off them.


We commonly hear of complaints that Malaysia is being ‘overrun’ by undocumented migrants and the terrible abuses and work conditions they go through, even for the documented ones. Instead of addressing the serious complaints of abuse, exploitation and cheating these migrant workers face, the authorities are taking the easy way out by bringing in more migrant workers and in the process, allowing the recruiting agents, brokers, middlemen, outsourcing companies and rent seekers connected to both Bangladesh and Malaysia to make huge profits off these desperate and poor migrants.


We urge the Home Ministry to consult all stakeholders including the Human Resources Ministry, MTUC and the Malaysian Employers Federation before taking such a drastic step especially since there already exist a ready-made labour force – some estimated 100,000 refugees and two million undocumented migrants who are already working in the country albeit without proper documentation.


As many of these refugees and undocumented migrants are working without lawful authorisation, they are extremely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, often underpaid, cheated and extorted by unscrupulous employers and law enforcement personnel.


The move to bring in 1.5 million migrant workers is certainly questionable as to the motives and who it actually benefits. It is a far more sensible and practical solution to regularise the refugees and migrants already present and working in the country, thus protecting them in the process.


Released by:
Eric Paulsen
Executive Director
Lawyers for Liberty


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