In 2018, about 75 per cent of Bangladeshi workers were illegally sent to Brunei by the brokers in collaboration with immigration police at the airport through so-called ‘body contracts’, said officials.

Due to a strong control by the brokers over Bangladesh-Brunei recruitments, Bangladesh may lose the job market permanently, fear senior officials at Bangladesh High Commission in Bandar Seri Begawan.

Bangladeshi workers were allowed to migrate to Brunei without getting their visas attested by labour wings of the Bangladesh High Commission in Darussalam, they said.

The officials also said that the brokers sent the workers without taking any clearance from the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training.

The officials said that the rackets of brokers were active in Bangladesh and Brunei, controlling labour migration from Bangladesh by providing bribes and resorting to other illegal means.

Bangladesh high commissioner in Bandar Seri Begawan Air vice Martial (retd) Mahmud Hossain in a DO letter to Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment minister Imran Ahmad requested the latter to take steps to stop the ongoing ‘body contract’ business at the airport.

Referring to Brunei government’s information, he said though 20,000 visas of Bangladeshi workers were stamped, only 5,000 visas were attested by the labour wing.

Describing Brunei as the ninth destination country for Bangladeshi workers, the high commissioner said that for the Brunei government’s Wawasan 2035 development project and implementation of the 35-kilometer-long Tumburong Bridge under belt and road Initiatives, the country was planning to recruit 40,000 Bangladeshi workers.

But, rackets of Bangladeshi brokers based in Brunei, who work in collaboration with other local brokers, control the migration process by way of bribes, the DO letter said.

It also said that the labour market was in serious trouble due to the dominance of brokers.

The employment agencies in Brunei do not hire workers directly by issuing advertisement. Rather, they sell visas to the intermediaries who hire workers in exchange of huge amounts of money which the migrants must pay.

What is more worrying is that in the context of the big projects, several thousands of fake visas have been created for the Bangladeshi workers fabricating official seals and documents of the Brunei immigrations and Labour Department, the letter mentioned referring to Brunei sources.

It said that the rackets of brokers along with corrupt local people in Brunei were behind such grand design.

It also mentioned that the Brunei government already slapped a temporary moratorium on recruiting workers from Bangladesh.

Bangladesh High Commission in Brunei feels that unless the brokers were stopped the labour market might permanently close for Bangladeshis.

On August 3, the High Commission of Brunei Darussalam in Dhaka notified that it temporarily stopped accepting applications of employment visas for the Bangladeshi workers since August 4.

The Brunei government has taken the decision as some Brunei companies were found involved in manufacturing fake job visas for Bangladeshi workers.

When asked, Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry’s secretary Rownaq Jahan told New Age Wednesday that they were all set to take steps soon to bring the brokers under legal framework so that stern actions could be taken against the unscrupulous brokers.

‘We are working sincerely to make the labour migration safe and orderly,’ she said.

In a notice on August 3, the High Commission of Brunei Darussalam in Dhaka said that it kept applications of employment visas temporarily closed until further notice.

However, other visa applications (visit, dependent and student) remained open as usual, according to the notice of Brunei High Commission.

Bangladesh High Commission said there were many Brunei companies which were recruiting workers from Bangladesh by issuing so-called ‘free visas’ and they were plunging the workers into an abbeys of uncertainty. 

Officials said that Bangladeshi workers frequently lodged complaints to the Bangladesh mission’s labour wing in Brunei’s capital that they were cheated or denied their wages.

After landing in Brunei, many Bangladeshi workers did not get jobs, they said.

About 30,000 Bangladeshi workers are currently working in Brunei with most of them employed in the construction sector, according to the Bangladesh High Commission there.

Global Migration expert and WARBE Development Foundation’s chairman Syed Saiful Haque told New Age that Bangladesh government must carefully take actions against the rackets of brokers who were working as mafia gang, thereby tarnishing the image of Bangladesh abroad.

‘Suspension of visa issuance cannot be the solution,’ he said, adding that barriers to normal migration could promote more illegal ways of trafficking.

Saiful, a returnee migrant turned as migrant rights campaigner said that in both origin and destination countries there should be immediate bilateral steps to break the rackets of brokers to ensure safe migration of workers.

Home Ministry’s protection service division secretary Md Shahiduzzaman and senior superintendent of Police (Immigration) at the airport could not be reached for comments despite several attempts.

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