KUALA LUMPUR: Bangladeshi conmen here are swindling millions from their countrymen by demanding up to RM10,000 to help them get the Immigration Department’s temporary Enforcement Card or E-card.
The Bangladesh High Commission here can get the whole E-card process done for just RM100.
The Dhaka Tribune reported that the conmen were preying on Bangladeshis who worked without proper documents, taking advantage of their trust and lack of knowledge of proper procedures.
It quoted Bangladesh High Commissioner to Malaysia Md Shahidul Islam as admitting that the workers were held hostage by these conmen gangs.
The Immigration Department had announced in February that illegal workers could gain legal status under a rehiring programme if they obtained an E-card from the department.
The department set June 30 as the deadline and carried out raids early this month against those without the E-card, and their employers.
Immigration director-general Mustafar Ali said they detained 1,509 illegal immigrants between July 1 and 3. They also detained 28 employers. The highest number of illegal immigrants detained were Bangladeshis (752), followed by Indonesians (195) and Myanmar nationals (117).
The Dhaka Tribune said Malaysian authorities had assured a Bangladeshi delegation that the deadline would be extended until Dec 31 and that employers should submit names of their workers to avoid arrest.
Bangladeshi workers told the Dhaka Tribune that many who did not know about the offer or were afraid to communicate with authorities were cheated by other Bangladeshis who asked for exorbitant sums of money to get the E-cards and that this had deterred many from getting their E-cards.
Several workers told the newspaper that gangs of Bangladeshi brokers were taking RM7,000 to RM10,000 from illegal workers who wished to get a card.
The report quoted Aminur Rahman, an illegal worker, as saying he only came to know about the E-card recently and when he contacted a fellow Bangladeshi about it, he was asked to pay about RM10,000 to get the E-card.
Aminur confessed that he had paid Taka 250,000 (RM13,200) to smugglers who brought him to Malaysia by sea.
“They had promised to bring me here for Taka 150,000, but when I reached Malaysia after a 15-day journey from Cox’s Bazar, the syndicate confined me and forced my family to pay Taka 250,000. They threatened to kill me.
“We were deceived in Dhaka and now we are being deceived in Malaysia by our own people,” Aminur was quoted as saying by the Dhaka Tribune.
The newspaper spoke to a number of workers in Malaysia, all of whom said they were being exploited and that their own nationals were deceiving them.
One man was quoted as saying: “We are hopeless and helpless. Everyone tries to exploit me. We paid to our own people but they cheated us.”
Several workers who were deceived by Bangladeshi middlemen claimed they were physically threatened by the gangs when trying to contact the high commission, according to the report.
Aminur said: “Bangladeshi middlemen stand around the high commission’s gate. They know who we are, they stop us on our way and threaten us.”
Another worker, Rubel, told the newspaper: “We pay the middlemen on a regular basis to avoid arrest.”
Some middlemen apparently tell these workers if they do not pay up, the brokers will inform the police of their presence and get them arrested.
The Dhaka Tribune quoted high commissioner Shahidul as saying: “Illegal Bangladeshi workers suffer terribly when they listen to the middlemen. They are always trying to exploit the illegal workers. They scare the workers away from contacting us.”
He said if any illegal worker went to the high commission directly, they had to pay at most RM100 to complete the process.
According to the newspaper, about 400,000 Bangladeshis are working legally in different sectors in Malaysia, and that sources said at least 10,000 Bangladeshis were now languishing in Malaysian jails.