The Right to Redress Coalition (R2R), working on migrant rights, has urged the government of Malaysia to come up with a comprehensive policy on labour migration, according to a Malaysian news portal.
The R2R said there were many contentious issues associated with labour migration in Malaysia, and they were not problems that can be ignored, according to the report published by The Star Online on October 10.
Rani Rasiah, a member of the R2R, pointed out that the conflicting decisions by the government in relation to the issue of 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers served as an example why a comprehensive policy was needed.
They raised the issue just after Malaysia's reopening their private sector labour market for Bangladesh.
Bangladesh and Malaysia in February last signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for recruiting Bangladeshi workers.
But on the following day, Malaysia announced suspension of foreign workers recruitment, drawing widespread criticism from the business and rights activists.
Malaysia again opened its job market for Bangladeshi workers in three sectors -- manufacturing, construction and agriculture -- in the first week of September. The country will take the workers through private arrangement, according to the expatriates' welfare ministry of Bangladesh.
Currently, around 600,000 Bangladeshis are working in Malaysia, mainly in construction and plantation sectors.
Quoting Ms Rani, The Star said: "What is the ba3sis of bringing in workers? Shouldn't it be based on manpower needs of the country?"
She said the demand for migrant workers doesn't seem to complement the local workforce, but rather to replace it with cheaper labour.
"Certain economic sectors have become so dependent on migrant workers that there's a fear of collapse if they are withdrawn," the report quoted the R2R member, who is with the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM).
She also said that given the significance of migrant workers to the economy, and their numbers, it is not a problem we can afford to ignore.
Migrant workers make up about one third of the workforce and 20 per cent of Malaysia's population. More than half the migrant workforce in Malaysia is undocumented, she added.
She said there was an urgent need to honestly evaluate the situation and formulate a comprehensive national policy on labour migration.
Such a policy, she said, should be based on a reliable assessment of the manpower needs of the country, and respect for the workers' and human rights of the entire workforce, local and migrant.
"Such a policy should remove the profit incentive from labour migration, and help clear among others, Malaysia's terrible track record in human trafficking and forced labour," she said.
Rani said that R2R are conducting a series of roundtables on several aspects with different stakeholders in this issue. They will also present their recommendations to the government.