The government is looking at ways to allow migrant workers to be employed in Malaysia without the use of agents that impose high fees, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said.

Anwar said all states will monitor workers presently in the country to ensure that they are given sufficient facilities to work legally in Malaysia.

“For example, Nepalese (workers) are only charged RM3,700 (to work in Malaysia), but they (charges) can reach up from RM20,000 to RM25,000 for Indonesians and Bangladeshis,” Anwar told a press conference after holding a cabinet meeting in Putrajaya earlier today.

“We will be paying attention to this matter. If their (workers’) wages were increased, I would have no problem, but if the charges imposed by the agents are too exorbitant, this would not help as it would lead to abuse or modern slavery.”

Anwar’s announcement comes several days after Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said the government may bypass the allegedly overly convoluted and monopolistic recruitment system for Bangladeshi workers and initiate a fast-track system.

According to The Business Post earlier this week, Saifuddin expressed his dissatisfaction with the recruitment process for Bangladeshi workers during his meeting with the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira) delegation in the capital yesterday, sources said.

Meeting the delegation Saturday, Saifuddin addressed issues such as health screenings, auto-rotation for recruitment agencies, and the lack of e-visa processing centres, which had contributed to the problems in bringing workers to Malaysia.

With the proposed changes, the Malaysian government is looking to make the process similar to other source countries such as Nepal.

Through the fast-track system, Malaysia can bring up to 550,000 Bangladeshi workers to the country.

The meeting also saw the leaders complain about various weaknesses in the current recruitment system, which are being compounded by monopolistic and corrupt practices.

On January 10, Saifuddin said employers will now be allowed to bring in migrant workers from 15 source countries based on their capability and need, without needing to fulfil the previously imposed conditions for hiring and quota qualification.

This temporary solution means that employers could obtain approvals as soon as three days from the submission of their application for the workers.

The relaxed rules come amid the entry of Bangladeshi workers to Malaysia being monopolised by two power brokers, with calls growing for an open system that no longer limits the number of recruitment agencies.

Lately, stakeholders have urged the government to end the involvement of two “cartels” that rake in billions annually from forced labour and exploitation.

Despite the cartel leaders’ meetings with Anwar, the prime minister has ordered the Home Ministry and Human Resources Ministry to look into the allegations of human trafficking and slavery involving these individuals.

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