Activists warn rushed visa deadline could force firms to source foreign workers unethically

KUALA LUMPUR, — Advocates for migrant workers have warned of potential harm in Putrajaya’s decision to bring forward the deadline for recruiting labour from Bangladesh, calling it a rushed and poorly-informed decision that could force employers to cut corners in order to meet the arbitrary target.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail announced last Friday that all active recruitment quota for workers from Bangladesh will be voided if firms fail to have their calling visas ready by March 1, in a move that caught industries by surprise.

Saifuddin Nasution said the new deadline was decided in lieu of the decision to freeze all foreign worker hiring by May 31. It is unclear what prompted the decision but activists speculated that it could be to rein in syndicates that run rampant fraudulent recruitment rackets often abetted by corruption.

“If companies don’t bring foreign workers in now, even if they don’t actually need them and accommodation or production lines are not ready for them, who knows when they will next be able to do so legally,” said Andy Hall, a Nepal-based activist who track labour trafficking activities across Asean countries and South Asia.

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