The governments of Malaysia and Bangladesh have been urged to expedite negotiations on a new agreement for the recruitment of Bangladeshi migrant workers here.
International migrant worker rights specialist Andy Hall, who has worked in Nepal and Bangladesh, said the new terms are necessary to prevent further systemic forced labour in Malaysia caused by debt bondage from extortionate recruitment-related fees and costs.
"It's crucial that Bangladesh and Malaysia now adopt a zero-cost migration channel with all of the existing engrained syndicates over medical, visa and security screening processes removed," Hall told Malaysiakini.
"At-risk and impoverished workers in Bangladesh are eager to come to Malaysia to undertake dirty, dangerous and demanding work.
But no such worker should have to pay for their job and thereby continue to enrich those corrupt individuals that thrive in making money through these syndicated and selective migration channels under the previous Malaysian regime," he stressed.
He added that following agreement to the new terms, both governments should also monitor its implementation to ensure that all parties adhere to the "zero cost" policy for recruitment of migrant workers.
In a special report series, Malaysiakini together with Bangladesh media Kaler Kantho had exposed how Bangladesh workers continued to be trapped in slave-like conditions despite seemingly tight hiring regulations.
Exploited by their employers, many Bangladeshi workers who enter the country legally, end up fleeing and becoming undocumented - a prime target for crime syndicates acting as purported "legalisation agents".
Some of these workers end up dead while others were forced to flee and hidein the jungles here.
After the postponement of a Sept 24 Malaysia-Bangladesh Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting in Dhaka, sources previously told Malaysiakini that the members will meet tomorrow to continue discussions towards lifting a ban on recruitment of Bangladeshi workers.
Malaysiakini understands that a delegation from Bangladesh led by its Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmed had arrived in Kuala Lumpur yesterday in preparation for the meeting with Human Resource Minister M Kulasegaran and other ministry officials.
The Bangladesh delegation included its High Commissioner to Malaysia Mohd Shahidul Islam while Malaysia will also be represented by officers from the Labour Department.
When contacted, an aide to Kulasegaran confirmed that the meeting will be held at around noon tomorrow.
According to sources familiar with the negotiations, the delegation from Bangladesh is expected to raise issues surrounding the legalisation and recruitment of its citizens who are already here but find themselves becoming undocumented due to various circumstances.
On the other hand, Malaysian authorities are looking at fresh recruitment as it aims to complete the 'Back For Good' amnesty exercise which will see undocumented migrants being repatriated and blacklisted from entering the country again.
On Sept 1 last year, Putrajaya suspended the Foreign Worker Application System (SPPA) for Bangladeshi workers which only allowed the recruitment process to be carried out by 10 selected agencies.
The previous system saw Bangladeshi workers apparently having to fork out up to RM20,000 to the agents in processing fees per person to facilitate work permit approvals and other arrangements to work in Malaysia.
The ongoing negotiations are being held against the backdrop of US trade sanction threats against global companies, including a glove manufacturer from Malaysia, for suspected use of forced migrant labour.