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Migrants in Malaysia feel the virus pain

Lockdown leaves contractual workers jobless


Arafat Ara | April 01, 2020 00:00:00


Bangladeshis working on a contract basis in Malaysia are worried about their future as they remain out of work due to the lockdown to fight the spread of new coronavirus there, workers and insiders say.

Although the Malaysian government announced the workers will get dues from their employers, the informal workers have no such opportunities because of their job nature.

Instead, they may lose jobs because of the economic shock as a consequence of Covid-19 caused by the virus, they said.

About 700,000 Bangladeshis are staying in the Southeast Asian country. Of them, a significant number of Bangladeshis are engaged in temporary work in construction, agriculture, markets, automobile workshops, etc.

Charities are providing them with food and other essentials, but all the workers cannot get the support.

If the pandemic is not contained soon, the migrant workers will be in serious trouble, they said.

Shohel Mollah, who went to Malaysia five year ago, said he worked at a building construction company. But now he is jobless due to the lockdown.

"I can maintain my daily expenses for a maximum of 15 days with my savings. After that I will not be able to sustain myself," the 33-year-old migrant worker said.

He could not save adequate money, because he maintained a large family in Bangladesh.

"I am also worried about my job as the situation is not favourable for foreign workers," he said.

Talking to the FE, Abu Haiyat, a Malaysia-based freelance researcher, said some organisations are providing food to migrant workers, but he is sure whether all workers can access that.

Lockdown will continue until 14 April in Malaysia. During this period, the workers can somehow manage their urgent needs. If this gets prolonged, they will fall into great trouble, he said.

He urged the Bangladesh high commission in Kuala Lumpur to take necessary action to help the migrant workers.

The mission can raise funds from Bangladeshi business community, if needed, he said.

Both the regular and irregular workers should be given support from the high commission, he argued.

He said although the Malaysian government announced relief package for its local workers, no such declaration has yet to be made for the protection of foreign workers.

So far, 2,626 cases of the virus have been reported in Malaysia, including 37 deaths, according to Aljazeera website.

When contacted, Jahirul Islam, labour counsellor at the Bangladesh High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian government has ensured medical facilities to all people, including migrants. Workers also will get their due wages timely.

The mission is providing necessary consultation online for workers, he noted. They will extend all necessary support to the workers, he said without elaborating.

So far, 44 Bangladeshis had died of Covid-19 worldwide, mostly in the USA. But no death case was confirmed among expatriate Bangladeshis in Malaysia.

arafat_ara@hotmail.com


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