23 June 2024

Stop it for your own sake, not just theirs

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By: Prof. Dr. Mohammad Tariqur Rahman

Hundreds and thousands of workers from Bangladesh felt lucky to cross immigration at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) before 31st May 2024. Albeit many of them are those who failed to join their dream job in Malaysia as they had been promised. Now, they are hiding or have been left stranded for months in different places in Malaysia.

Meanwhile, to catch the deadline of the 31st of May to come to Malaysia, another set of thousands of workers have remained stranded at KLIA. There are no trace of either their employers or their agents.

At the same time, more than 15,000 were stranded at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) and failed to board their dream flight. The majority of them received fake tickets.

Needless to say, each of those who are stranded at different spots in their fairy tale journey had spent all the resources they had. On average, each spent not less than RM20,000. Even after paying at least five times more than the actual cost, they are bound to return home empty-handed.

Meanwhile, the stranded workers’ entire hard-earned or inherited funds made the ‘authorized’ dealers and agents responsible for hiring foreign workers awfully rich.

Once again, the story of the stranded workers went beyond the boundary of the deep ‘concerns’ of both Bangladesh and Malaysian policymakers.

Nevertheless, none of those incidents happened by accident. Rather, the story behind those stranded workers lies with the well-known organized fraud that continues. There seems to always be an active legal hunting down of the culprit behind the fraud. More often than not, instead of catching the perpetrators of the offence and bringing them to justice, the stranded workers become the victims of the legal hunting.

Jail, deportation, and monetary penalty – the stranded workers undoubtedly deserve it all for their share of the criminal act – willing to bribe their way to Malaysia. They should have known the awaiting potential predicament in their dream come true venture.

As usual, two other groups of people who are more, if not equally responsible for such a crime, will largely remain untouched.

Such a syndicate cannot run without the involvement of government officials from both countries who have the official responsibilities to oversee the sending or recruiting of foreign workers. At the centre of such crime syndicates, there has always been an open secret; the presence of authorized companies and agents who directly or indirectly deal with potential foreign workers.

The story of the unstoppable predicament of foreign workers will continue. A handful of people both in Bangladesh and Malaysia continue to make their fortunes and be rich at the expense of these workers.

Here, the stranded foreign workers are not the only losers. The rakyat too pays the toll. Their good name as a respectable nation is in jeopardy, at least for two reasons: getting ‘fame’ for ‘human trafficking’ in the name of modern slavery and emboldening crimes by the stranded foreign workers.

If not for the sake of those who became victims of the dream of working in Malaysia, wouldn’t you want to stop those criminals who are recruiting foreign workers, for your own sake?

The author is the Associate Dean (Continuing Education), Faculty of Dentistry, and Associate Member, UM LEAD, Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He may be reached at tarique@um.edu.my