Malaysian expatriates block the road in front of foreign ministry
Malaysian expatriates block the road in front of foreign ministry Suhada Afrin

Thousands of Bangladeshi migrants have been passing through uncertainty as many have been stranded due to the outbreak of novel coronavirus after they came home on leave from Malaysia, ill-fated migrants have said.

Stakeholders have said a section migrants returned home after losing jobs in the Southeast Asian country. Moreover, the demand of workers has recently decreased in the country.

According to Wage Earners' Welfare Board, some 11,571 Bangladeshis have come from back Malaysia between 1 April and 31 October in 2020.

Earlier, more Bangladeshis came home in three months.

The highest efforts have been made to send back the stranded migrants. The opportunity of returning to Malaysia will emerge once the situation of coronavirus is tamed in Malaysia.
Expat secretary Ahmed Munirus Saleheen
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Air communication with Malaysia was suspended in March. Although communication resumed in July, expatriate workers were not allowed to enter the country. Then air communication was suspended again in September.

As a result, those who came home before March are unable to travel to Malaysia to join work. The validity of the tenure of visas of most of the migrants has already expired.

Anwar Md. Sayeed from Chandpur was three years in Malaysia. He would work in a furniture factory. He came home on leave on 20 January, and he was to go back on 20 April. But he could not go back due to coronavirus.

The ill-fated migrant said he has sold land for the treatment of his father, a cancer patient. Now he is leading life on loans, Sayeed lamented.

Malaysia has assured Bangladesh of migrants' entry on the basis of the employers' request.
Foreign secretary Momen

Salek Gazi of Patuakhali also worked in a furniture factory in Malaysia. He returned home in mid-August after losing his job due to coronavirus.

Like Anwar and Salek, many have been stranded and now they are looking for ways to travel to Malaysia. The validity of their visas has expired. They have applied to the expatriates' welfare and overseas employment ministry to extend the validity of their visas. Several thousands of migrants also took to the streets on 2 November. They placed their demand in writing to the foreign ministry.

Following the demand, foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen said the government is holding talks with Malaysia over the repatriation of migrants to the Southeast Asian country. Malaysia has assured Bangladesh of their entry on the basis of the employers' request, Momen added.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, expat secretary Ahmed Munirus Saleheen said the highest efforts have been made to send back the stranded migrants. The opportunity of returning to Malaysia will emerge once the situation of coronavirus is tamed in Malaysia, he added.

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Meanwhile, Malaysia could not control the spread of coronavirus despite imposing various restrictions. The infections have been increasing over the last couple of days. Earlier, the country banned entry of the citizens of 23 counties including Bangladesh, and this will be effective till 31 December.

Sending new workers to Malaysia remained suspended since September 2018. The labour market for Bangladeshis came to a halt due to irregularities in the recruitment process by a section of recruiting agencies.

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.