25th Feb 2022: Comment attributable to Andy Hall on the recent Malaysian ministerial visits to the region to secure desperately needed migrant workers for labour intensive Malaysian industry, and domestic workers for Malaysian homes

Comment attributable to Andy Hall (independent migrant worker rights specialist) on the recent Malaysian ministerial visits to the region to secure desperately needed migrant workers for labour intensive Malaysian industry, and domestic workers for Malaysian homes

As COVID19 borders slowly and cautiously re-open, Malaysia has recently dispatched at least 3 different ministers (Home Affairs, Human Resources and now Plantations) as well as delegations of actors and business persons across the region (to Bangaldesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar and Nepal) in its desperation to urgently secure/source foreign workers for its labour intensive migrant dependent industries, and to ensure a steady flow of domestic workers for Malaysian homes.

But are the different ministers even aligned with one harmonious Malaysian government policy on manpower recruitment and migrant workers? Or do they each have their own objectives, ‘interests’ and, most importantly, hidden agendas and hidden supporting actors to satisfy during their confused overseas negotiations on migrant MoUs and specific modalities for the manpower recruitment?

And on whose terms will the upcoming manpower recruitment actually be done, Malaysia’s terms or source country terms, or a negotiated both? National, human and economic security needs equally balanced or not?

All indications are unfortunately that we will likely see more corrupt and extortionate migrant worker recruitment systems and practices recommencing in the near future (they have already started actually with returning workers!) with unnecessary or bloated health check, visa issuance, quota approval and security checking processes once again being entrenched in Malaysia and at source country level. The FWCMS system seems totally compromised now. This will lead to horrific levels of debt bondage and forced labour for the new desperate and vulnerable recruits, who simply seek a better life for they and their families whilst toiling involuntarily in Malaysia as a foreign land.

But we could also as easily see a new beginning for Malaysia today, with fair and ethical recruitment models developed by its political leadership and industry actors that genuinely benefit the countries, the industries, the agents/actors and the workers, whilst enhancing the rule of law and putting an end to the impunity and corruption of the past.

Unfortunately few signs of much ethical recruitment conduct and systems are appearing to most observers today. We see only more doom and gloom, with syndicate leaders active to ensure a lining of their pockets (and that of their political supports) through profiteering, extortion and a lack of transparency that will surely lead to migrant workers again being fleeced. Everyone still seems to be out to profit for themselves at the expense of vulnerable migrant workers desperation right now.

Malaysia’s foreign worker recruitment systems must change, and they must change now. The status quo is abhorrent, broken and unacceptable


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