Irene Fernandez denounces the 6P programme as a fiasco causing the suffering of thousands.
Criticising the 6P programme of amnesty for illegal migrant workers, Tenaganita chief Irene Fernandez called it a fiasco that had caused hundreds of thousands of migrant workers to suffer ill treatment.
She was speaking outside the Bangladesh High Commission, where about 100 Bangladeshis were protesting against being cheated under the 6P programme.
Earlier today, Malaysia signed a memorandum of understanding with Bangladesh that marked the end of a ban on the South Asian country’s workers that Putrajaya imposed in 2007.
Human Resource Minister Datuk Dr S Subramaniam and Bangladesh’s Minister for Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment signed the document at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre.
Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein had earlier said that the agreement was also a means of combating human trafficking.
Fernandez denounced the Bangladesh government for “wilfully entering into this agreement when thousands of their citizens continue to be exploited in Malaysia.”
She was surrounded by Bangladeshi nationals holding up banners alleging fraud under the 6P programme. They were under the watchful eyes of about 50 policemen.
Some 1,000 migrant workers have filed complaints of fraud with Tenaganita and other local NGOs, including Selangor Anti-Human-Trafficking Council (Mapmas). The complaints name 55 government-approved 6P agencies.
Bangladesh nationals are the second largest foreign work force registered in the 6P programme. They number about 400,000.
Fernandez estimated that at least half that number had been cheated by the agencies. She said her estimate was based on testimonies given to Tenaganita.
She asked: “What is the Malaysian government hiding? Who is it protecting, and how are they benefitting from these fraudulent practices?
“The Malaysian authorities have had ample time to act on the numerous complaints filed and evidence received.
“The Malaysian public now demands that the authorities answer for their inaction.”
Fernandez submitted to the embassy a memorandum addressed to Bangladesh’s Minister of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment.
The memorandum demanded that the Bangladesh government ensure the following:
i. Bangladeshis in Malaysia are immediately granted valid work permits;
ii. The names of their employers are stated on the work permits;
iii. That all 55 agencies involved in cheating migrants through the 6P programme be held accountable;
v. The practice of using agents for the recruitment and placement of migrants be abolished;
vi. The immediate enforcement of a migrant recruitment and placement policy that protects workers’ rights and dignity;
vii. That the Bangladesh High Commission in Malaysia be proactive in addressing complaints and that the labour attaché ensure the protection of rights and the representation of workers seeking redress.
Fernandez noted that the Malaysian government had lauded the 6P programme as a “goodwill gesture”, but she said the realities had shown it to be otherwise.
“The experiences of migrant workers and employers in the past 18 months demonstrate how seriously fraud, abuse and corruption have festered throughout this programme,” she said.
“Whatever the stated objectives of the 6P programme may be, the Malaysian government cannot claim ignorance of the realities of what the 6P has become: a fiasco whereby migrant workers are cheated, abused and remain undocumented despite making substantial payments of between RM3,000 and RM4,000 per person to 6P agents approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs.”
She said thousands of migrants continued to be swindled of their money and left in an undocumented status, open to arrest, detention, whipping and deportation.