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ATimes: KL Under Fire For Ban On Bangladeshis
By Anil Netto
28/2/2001 6:23 am Wed
[Ada banyak sebab pekerja Bangladesh dan filipina tidak lagi
diizinkan untuk berada dinegara ini. Tetapi perenggan terakhir
menceritakan sesuatu yang pihak terbabit amat mahir...
Perhatikan dianggarkan ada 100,000 pekerja Bangladesh dan 900,000
pekerja asing yang berdaftar. Bayangkan seorang pekerja Bangladesh
membayar RM5,000 banyaknya kepada agen untuk tiba ke sini. Ini
menggambarkan betapa lumayannya pendapatan agen - malah lebih
lumayan dari syarikat 'travel agent' (agen melancung) rasmi.
Tentu ramai yang berkongsi wang sebanyak ini kerana tidak banyak
kes masuk tak berpermit dilapurkan di media hari ini. Mereka 'ditemui'
selepas berada beberapa ketika di negara ini, khususnya ketika
musim kontraktor membayar gaji... atau sebelum musim membayar gaji.
Ada pihak yang untung pada musim-musim sebegini....
Kuala Lumpur under fire for ban on Bangladeshis
By Anil Netto
PENANG, Malaysia - Malaysia's decision, made public this month, to
stop employers from recruiting Bangladeshi migrant workers means the
country will turn to other Asian countries for cheap labor.
The government has already signed recent agreements with Nepal and
Myanmar to take in workers from there as semi-skilled and unskilled
labor, as migrant workers from countries like the Philippines and
Bangladesh demand higher pay, critics say.
The government's line of thinking seems to be that migrant workers,
especially those from Bangladesh, are disrupting the social fabric by
marrying Malaysian women. But rights groups like Tenaganita say that
the government has singled out Bangladeshi workers - of which there
are 100,000 working in Malaysia - because they have increasingly been
asserting their rights to better pay and working conditions.
A freeze was also put on Filipino workers, most of whom work in
Malaysia as domestic workers, after they demanded higher pay in 1999
amid the economic crisis. The numbers of Filipino domestic workers
have been falling after the crackdown on migrant workers after the
economic crisis and as their wages have risen, Aegile Fernandez,
coordinator of the migrant desk at Tenaganita, told a seminar on
migration in Bangkok on Friday.
In the case of the Bangladeshi workers, Home Ministry
secretary-general Aseh Che Mat, who says the government imposed the
ban on hiring workers from Bangladesh in late January, says many
Bangladeshis had resorted to "marriages of convenience" with locals to
stay on in the country. "Some go on to have children. This often leads
to many refusing to return to Bangladesh after their working permits
expire," he said.
Not so, says Abdul M, a Bangladeshi garbage collector in a condominium
complex, who asked to remain anonymous. "Among my circle of friends,
hardly any have got involved with local women," he said in fluent
Malay, pulling a garbage cart behind him.
But a human resources manager of a five-star hotel in Penang says she
has seen many Bangladeshi workers hanging around flats where female
Malay-Muslim factory workers are housed. "It's a mini-Hat Yai out
there," she said of the area, drawing a parallel to a town in southern
Thailand, popular among Malaysian men for its nightlife and seedy
bars. "The Bangladeshi guys are pretty good-looking and a lot of our
local Malay factory girls, who work side-by-side with them, are crazy
about them [the Bangladeshi males]," she observed
Some trade unionists, who see foreign workers pulling down the wages
market, regard the move to bar Bangladeshi workers as positive. "The
immigrant labor was actually contributing to a lot of undercutting of
wages," said A Navamukundan, executive secretary of the National Union
of Plantation Workers. "There are a lot of problems managing them - a
lot of social problems because they are single males," he added.
That is ironic, because many believe officials allowed Indonesians and
Bangladeshis, who are largely Muslim, to enter the country because
they could better assimilate into this mainly Muslim society. Many
Bangladeshis toil at building sites, in plantations and in the service
sector in Malaysia. Officially, the country has some 900,000 foreign
workers but undocumented workers could double this figure.
Aseh said thousands of Bangladeshis are working illegally in the
country. "They now work with syndicates and forge documents to extend
their stay in the country," he said. "Some even go to the extent of
starting their own business with forged documents."
Few in Malaysia are sympathetic with the plight of Bangladeshi
workers, most of whom have had to sell property or take out loans in
order to work in Malaysia. Migrant workers are often viewed as a
source of petty crime, social disruption, and health problems. Often,
media reports tend to "blame migrant workers or carry sensational news
about them" and in the process criminalize them, even as economic
demand for their services persists, Fernandez said.
Few Malaysians know how hard it is for Bangladeshis like Abdul, who
said, 'I had to pay about 5,000 ringgit (US$1,316) to the recruiting
agent in Bangladesh so that I could come here."
That is a princely sum in Bangladesh, but many Bangladeshi males,
including college graduates, jump at the chance to escape unemployment
at home. Many hope to repay their loans and save money in Malaysia.
But despite the contracts they signed in Bangladesh, they find that
their salaries are lower than promised and have to work long hours of
overtime to repay their debts back home.
Murthi, a factory manager in Penang, says the multinational firm he
works for refuses to hire foreign workers. "We have to go through
these recruiting agents, but how genuine are these agents," he
complains. "That's one of our main concerns - there are a lot of cases
where Bangladeshi workers have been cheated." Murthi says many local
employers often bully their Bangladeshi workers, making them slog long
hours and providing them overcrowded accommodation.
Though many big multinational firms would rather not employ foreign
workers because of the messy paperwork and other problems, many of
these firms engage external contractors for general labor work. These
contractors are the ones who hire the foreign workers.
Others say that Bangladeshis are being barred because they are now
more aware of their rights, and because the Bangladesh government has
become more assertive as well.
Only Filipinos currently have contracts for domestic workers that are
verified and recorded by the Philippine embassy. Filipino domestic
workers are considered among the higher-paid migrant workers - their
pay is around 600 ringgit a month, but Indonesians get 350 ringgit for
the same work. Fernandez says this highlights the country's search for
cheaper labor for jobs the locals shirk, a situation not helped by the
fact that migrant-worker jobs like domestic work are not covered by
the country's employment act.
Fernandez told the news website Malaysiakini recently that with
Malaysia's new freeze on Bangladeshi workers, "the employers can then
pay these new migrant workers the low pay that they used to pay
Bangladeshi workers when the latter group first came to Malaysia".
"Besides racial discrimination [against Bangladeshis], the other
reason why they have asked the bosses to stop hiring Bangladeshi
workers is that the agents can once again make money when they set up
agencies in Nepal and Myanmar to recruit workers," she said.