MALAYSIA will be signing a G2G Memorandum Of Understanding with Bangladesh on the importing of 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers this month. According to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the policy was made in response to requests from employers. He also said the workers would be brought in stages to fill the demand in various sectors.
MyWelfare, a registered organisation that seeks to bring humanity, hope and dignity to the most marginalised peoples in society, urges the Government to reconsider this move. Is it wise to bring in another 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers when Malaysia already has 2.1 million registered foreign workers and over a million others who are illegal?
Furthermore, according to the UNHCR, there are 156,000 documented refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia. Those who are yet to be documented could be as many as five to 10 times this number. In total, the existing and potential foreign workers here number in the millions. They are more than 10% of the local population, or one in five.
Asylum seekers and refugees are people who escaped from genuine persecution and violence in their home country. A large percentage, the Rohingya Muslims, are denied citizenship in their home country, Myanmar.
Look at the millions of Syrian refugees who are forced to take dangerous land and sea journeys to Europe. They are recognised as refugees and asylum seekers and given food, clothing, shelter, work and protection. Their children are given education and they can also work.
Malaysia is facing an impending refugee and humanitarian crisis. Refugees and asylum seekers from Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria and other countries also come here by dangerous land and sea routes.
However, they are not given any help or protection. They are not allowed to work legally, their children are not allowed to go to proper schools and they cannot access our public healthcare facilities. In short, they are in a state of limbo, eking out a living on the margins of society and are open to exploitation and abuse.
The reason for this travesty of justice is because Malaysia does not recognise the status of refugees and asylum seekers. They are not differentiated from undocumented immigrants. Hence, there are no laws and policies to protect refugees and asylum seekers in our country.
Without any legal recognition, if refugees or asylum seekers are robbed, raped or maimed, they cannot seek protection or obtain any recourse to justice. They are often hauled up by police or immigration officers during raids and are thrown into detention. Their children often end up without their parents or guardians, and many are orphaned.
MyWelfare urges the Malaysian Government to look into this humanitarian crisis that could affect our society in future.Children who cannot go to school can cause social problems. People who cannot work legally are subjected to poverty and exploitation. Desperation can force a person to take desperate measures.
If Malaysia need workers, look at hiring them. They need work to survive, and we need workers for our industries.
Instead of being a burden, they can contribute to our economy. Even if the Government does not want to naturalise them, they can be given temporary work permits.
And unlike foreign workers, they are not about to run away from employers as they live here now. With their loved ones with them, like us, all they want is a job and a safe place to rest.
JULES RAHMAN ONG
MyWelfare, Kuala Lumpur