By ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / Pic By ARIF KARTONO
MIGRANT workers in Malaysia are getting help from their respective consulates on legal and welfare matters amid fears of unpaid wages and mass layoffs during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period.
Many embassies in Kuala Lumpur (KL) have since established 24-hour helplines that are monitored by a team of advisors to assist their citizens after Putrajaya tightened movement restrictions.
The Bangladesh High Commission in Malaysia said it has taken measures, including communicating with employers on salaries, to help Bangladeshi workers during the MCO period. It said the Malaysian government has issued a clear directive on salaries to be paid or risk legal action.
“We are reaching out to our citizens via phone and online to identify them and assist them with their problems.
“We have been in contact with some of their employers. Our honorary consul general in Penang is also looking into issues in the northern states.
“We are in contact with the Malaysian government and non-governmental organisations to ensure the welfare of our citizens. This is a matter that needs to be dealt with by both countries,” a spokesperson for the high commission told The Malaysian Reserve.
The high commission has also issued statements and standard guidelines on its social media page reminding Bangladeshis here to observe MCO rules and healthcare guidelines set out by the Health Ministry.
Those who are showing symptoms are advised to get themselves checked at a government hospital.
Currently, all consular services have been suspended throughout the MCO period.
New passports and visas will only be issued once the MCO ends. Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob gave his assurance that every person in the country, including migrant workers and refugees, will be cared for by the government.
While the immediate responsibility falls onto each consulate to attend to their citizens, Ismail Sabri said the government will offer assistance in providing food and shelter.
“We will not allow anyone to go hungry during this MCO period,” he said.
The minister was responding to reports that migrant workers are not being paid and had no food.
Workers who live in cramped conditions on construction sites were also struggling to maintain their social distance and hygiene.
For Indonesian migrants working in Malaysia, it was reported that their livelihood was severely affected by the MCO which has been extended to April 14.
Indonesian lawmaker Christina Aryani recently said many of them are paid either daily or weekly as construction workers, factory workers, waitresses or janitors.
The Indonesian Embassy in KL did not respond for further comments.
However, postings on its Facebook page show that the embassy has partnered an Indonesian community organisation to mobilise food aid comprised of rice packs, eggs and instant noodles.
Malaysia has an estimated four million migrant workers, of which only about 1.7 million are documented.
They are expected to earn at least the minimum wage, which has been increased to RM1,100 per month in January last year.
According to The World Bank, Indonesians make 40% of Malaysia’s total foreign worker population, followed by Nepalese (22%) and Bangladeshis (14%).
Migrant workers are typically employed in sectors such as plantation, manufacturing, construction and services.