Enough is enough, with more than four million illegal workers in the country. There is no need, therefore, to get another 1.5 million workers from Bangladesh.

The Bar Council has called on the government to halt the intake of 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers because it has not regularised more than four million foreign workers who are currently illegally working in Malaysia.

“The way forward is for the Malaysian government to have a programme to regularise the illegal (not documented) migrant workers, rather than to bring in new migrant workers,” Bar Council of Malaysia’s Migrants, Refugees and Immigration Affairs Committee chairperson  M Ramachelvam said.

“Bringing in new migrant workers will only benefit labour agents and suppliers. At the same time hefty commissions will be collected by manpower syndicates in Malaysia and in Bangladesh.

“Therefore, the government should not proceed with the bringing in more migrant workers and should immediately carry out a regularisation programme for the estimated four million migrant workers who are in an irregular or are of illegal status,” Ramachelvam (photo) said.

He said this in his keynote speech at the opening of the Regional Civil Society Consultation on Mixed Migration Flow in and to South East Asia, which was held at the Mines Resort last night.

Malaysia’s apex labour movement, the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has also opposed the bringing in of the 1.5 million new migrant workers.

There has been no needs-based study whether new migrant workers are required in the country, Ramachelvam pointed out.

On June 25, Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced that all illegal foreign workers would be returned to their countries of origin before 1.5 million workers from Bangladesh are brought into Malaysia.

"Before we bring in 1.5 million legal workers from Bangladesh, we will first take the illegal ones out, which now number about two million."

4.6 million illegal workers in Malaysia

In November last year, a local media reported some 4.6 million illegal foreign workers were in the country. Zahid’s response then was he would meet Human Resources Minister Richard Riot Jaem to find out how he obtained the statistics.

Richard revealed that of the 6.7 million foreign workers in the country, 4.6 million had entered the country illegally.

Zahid (photo) had announced last year that a new body, or a commission, would be set up to tackle the issue of foreign labour, both legal and illegal. He said it was being set up on the instruction of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

Currently, Ramachelvam said, there are about 250,000 documented Bangladeshis and another 250,000 illegal Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia and for this reason the government must take advantage of those who are here already, as they know the local language and culture.

On the ‘boat people’ crisis, he said it was a humanitarian catastrophe that saw human suffering and loss of life through drowning and fights for survival on board boats left to drift on the high seas.

“The response of Asean nations, particularly Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, has not been in accordance with international humanitarian law and principles.

“The ‘push back’” policy adopted by these Asean nations is inhumane and not in accordance with customary international law,” Ramachelvam added.

M KRISHNAMOORTHY is a contributor to Malaysiakini.- Malaysiakini, 8/7/2015