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‘Surplus visa racket’ dupes Bangladeshi workers (2019)

BY Azlan Othman

Officials from the Bangladesh High Commission in Brunei Darussalam have uncovered what they described as a “surplus visa racket”, purportedly allowing Bangladeshi citizens to work in the Sultanate without the proper visa status.

The victims were found to be without jobs for as long as 10 months, after paying BND7,000-BND8,000 to labour brokers. They had sold off their lands and houses, on the promise of good wages and jobs once they arrived in the Sultanate.

Out of the estimated 15,000 work visas belonging to Bangladeshi citizens, only 4,552 were attested by the Labour wing of the Bangladesh High Commission.

The Bangladesh High Commission also said that labour brokers in Brunei and Bangladesh recruited these workers without first obtaining any clearance from the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training.

The employment racket has led to fears that the Sultanate could become a den for the trafficking of exploited people to neighbouring countries.

In one instance, the wage default reached BND600,000 after employers failed to pay the workers for six months, when they were each supposed to receive around BND350 per month.

Currently, the Bangladesh High Commission and the relevant government authorities in Brunei Darussalam are conducting an investigation into the employment racket, as well as labour brokers who reportedly operate in areas such as Serusop and Sengkurong.

To deal with the problem, officials at the Bangladesh High Commission have called for the implementation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) or a recruitment agency for foreign workers similar to those in Korea, Japan and Hong Kong.

With mega projects in the pipeline, like the second phase of the Hengyi construction project at Pulau Muara Besar, around 25,000-30,000 workers would be needed to fill the extra demand for manpower.

Earlier this month, the High Commission of Brunei Darussalam in Dhaka stated that it would temporarily cease to accept work visa applications for Bangladeshi citizens, from August 4.

The Brunei Government reached the decision, after several local companies were found to have been involved in manufacturing ‘surplus job visas’ for Bangladeshi workers.

About 30,000 Bangladeshis are working in Brunei Darussalam, with most employed in the construction sector, according to the Bangladesh High Commission.

-- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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