The Bangladesh high commission in Kuala Lumpur must be held accountable for the abuse and deplorable conditions suffered by its own citizens, said Tenaganita, a migrants and women rights organisation in Malaysia.
Condemning the September 15 assault on Bangladeshi workers on the premises of Bangladesh high commission in Kuala Lumpur, Tenaganita in a statement signed by its Director Dr Irene Fernandez yesterday said more than 10 recruiting agency personnel with the connivance of the high commission staff beat up the workers.
Meanwhile, several migrants and human rights organisations in a press conference at Dhaka Reporters Unity yesterday condemned the attack on the workers in Malaysia and demanded exemplary punishment to those responsible following a judicial probe into the incident. They also demanded inclusion of members from civil society in the committee the government has already formed to investigate the incident.
The Tenaganita statement said while the Bangladeshi workers, 110 in total, were on hunger strike for the 5th day demanding the high commission's intervention over the collection of their six months' overdue wages, they came under attack inside their own high commission and were forcefully sent to an unknown destination in two buses.
Following the immediate intervention of Tenaganita, the police brought the workers back and requested Tenaganita to take the workers in its custody.
Tenaganita expressed deep concern over the assault on the workers by the recruiting agents, an assault aided by their own high commission staff. "Why did the high commission allow the agents to beat up the workers?" Tenaganita said.
"Yet the Labour Attaché [of Bangladesh high commission] denies this stark reality. The state of denial has led to inaction that consequently creates enhanced problems," Tenaganita added.
It also gave a picture of the deplorable situation of thousands of workers in Malaysia, "Tenaganita alone has more than 12 cases involving over 5,000 workers. There are another 4,000 workers stranded at the KLIA [Kuala Lumpur International Airport]. This is only the tip of the iceberg."
"The situation will turn for the worse and become ugly if there is no proactive action from the Bangladesh government," warned Tenaganita.
The human rights organisation also questioned the high commission's commitment to helping the workers and added, "There has to be a review on the capacity of the consular services that should include the provision of special services for workers who are in Malaysia."
The organisation that does extensive research on the recruitment system said it is the high commission that verifies all the job contracts of Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia and "If the high commission had genuinely verified the status of the companies and their demand for workers, thousands of these workers would not be facing such problems."
"The current practice of outsourcing has the elements of trafficking in persons. Workers are brought, passports taken away, held in captivity, beaten and abused with no employment," Tenaganita said urging the governments of Malaysia and Bangladesh to review the process of recruiting through outsourcing.
The outsourcing mode and method of recruitment and placement of Bangladeshi workers cannot be accepted and thus needs to be disbanded, Tenaganita observed.
At the press conference in Dhaka Reporters Unity auditorium, WARBE representative Anisur Rahman Khan in a written statement demanded alternative jobs options for the workers cheated in Malaysia or bringing them back ensuring full compensation from the recruiting agencies.
"The memorandum of understanding signed between the two countries should be made public in the national interest," Khan said advising that skilled and honest officials should be assigned at the high commission in Kuala Lumpur and the activities of the recruiting and outsourcing agencies have to be monitored closely.
WARBE President Syed Saiful Haque, Sumaiya Islam of Bangladesh Obhibashi Mohila Sramik Association, Nahid Akter of Shosti, former ambassador Kamal Uddin Noor Khan Liton of Ain O Salish Kendra also spoke at the conference.
KL ASSURES DHAKA OF INVESTIGATION
In the meantime, Malaysia yesterday assured Bangladesh of investigating the problems being faced by Bangladeshi job seekers in Kuala Lumpur, reports UNB.
"We've received the complaint and we'll have to investigate the matter," Malaysian High Commissioner Dato Abdul Malek Bin Abdul Aziz told reporters after a meeting with Foreign Adviser Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury.
The high commissioner said the allegation against Malaysian recruiting agencies will be "thoroughly investigated".
The foreign adviser said Secretary of the Expatriates' Welfare Ministry Abdul Matin leaves here on Tuesday for Kuala Lumpur leading a delegation to make an on-the-spot inquiry as to why Bangladeshi workers are facing problems and who are responsible for their plights.
The adviser said the Malaysian high commissioner assured that his government will extend all cooperation in resolving the workers' problems.
He said the government has attached top priority to the issues of expatriate workers and is undertaking diplomatic and other efforts to resolve their problems. Because, he said, expatriate workers are assets of the country.
Chowdhury hoped that the inquiry committee's report will help resolve the problems of Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia.
Earlier, the government lodged a strong protest with Malaysian government and sought stern action against the Malaysian company PTC Asia-Pacific for its failure to provide appropriate jobs and facilities to the Bangladeshi workers they have recruited.
The problems surfaced after deprived Bangladeshi workers went on hunger strike recently on the Bangladesh High Commission premises in Kuala Lumpur.
The adviser told reporters that action would also be taken against any Bangladeshi agency found involved in such frauds with the job seekers.