KUALA LUMPUR: The accreditation of 25 companies to recruit workers from Bangladesh was done to avoid monopolistic practices as well as to safeguard the welfare and livelihood of the workers, says Datuk Seri M. Saravanan.

The Human Resources Minister also refuted allegations pertaining to the involvement of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the selection of the recruitment companies, saying that the claim was false and unfounded.

“My statement of meeting with Her Excellency and explaining the current affairs of the Bangladeshi foreign workers in our country has been taken out context.

“My meeting with Her Excellency was actually to narrate the current situation of foreign workers and the initiatives taken by my ministry for better working conditions,” he said in a statement yesterday.

In an effort to create better accessibility for potential workers and to ensure better governance of the recruitment process, the Human Resources Ministry had selected the 25 companies from a list of 1,520 provided by the Manpower Ministry of Bangladesh, said Saravanan.

He explained that there were only 10 companies involved in the recruitment of workers from Bangladesh prior to this decision.

This had unfortunately led to many workers being lured by the promise of decent work.

They were subsequently left stranded by agencies from both countries.

Saravanan added that his ministry would also further accredit another 250 companies.

These will incubate and operate within the structure of the aforementioned 25 companies to be part of the recruitment ecosystem, especially in meeting set standards and guidelines.

The Human Resources Ministry would only deal with the 25 designated companies which would be closely monitored so as to guarantee that International Labour Organisation (ILO) guidelines relating to the welfare of the workers were adhered to, he explained.

“Malaysia is serious in tackling the issue of forced labour that is tarnishing our international standing.

“Secondly, it is the sole responsibility of the 25 (companies) to ensure that the other 250 meet the strict recruitment standards and international best practices set by the Human Resources Ministry,” he said.

Meanwhile, Saravanan said his ministry did not practise preferences regarding certain source countries. On the contrary, he said his ministry was only involved in giving its approvals to the respective companies to recruit foreign workers to meet their production demands.

As of now, there are 14 countries in which companies can source their workers from.

“When I came onboard (as the minister), I made a decision that there will not be any direct or special approval, a rampant practice that had created too many backlashes, especially in terms of our nation’s international reputation,” he said.

Saravanan also said that the one-stop centre for foreign workers’ approvals, which was previously under the Home Ministry, had been transferred to the Human Resources Ministry.

“To date, the department has approved approximately 230,000 workers.

“It is now up to the relevant companies that have obtained their approvals to make levy payments, and submit the medical reports to get visas,” he said.

Klang MP Charles Santiago and two other migrant workers’ rights groups had urged Saravanan to explain his decision to only allowing 25 Bangladeshi agencies to recruit workers for Malaysia.

Santiago had asked Saravanan for the reasons on the specific number of agencies and how they would help solve the problem of migrant worker exploitation. — Bernama