Return of over 10,000 undocumented Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia is still uncertain due to a shortage of flights and high ticket prices as the amnesty for the repatriation of illegal foreigners ends tomorrow.
The Malaysian government offered the amnesty under its “back for good (B4G)” programme on August 1, according to the Malaysian Immigration Department.
If the migrant workers fail to avail the opportunity, they will have to face imprisonment and fine, according to the programme.
Amid this backdrop, Bangladesh government and the undocumented workers are hoping that the Malaysian authorities will extend the deadline.
Some 138,901 illegal immigrants were repatriated under the B4G programme from August 1 to December 14, Malaysian newspaper New Straits Times reported, citing the country’s Immigration Department.
Of them, 38,734 are Bangladeshis. Other countries that took the opportunity include Indonesia (53,328 people), India (22,964) and Myanmar (6,923).
A top official at the expatriates’ welfare ministry, seeking anonymity, said about 10,000 to 15,000 workers who have registered for the programme were waiting to return.
“We hope the Malaysian government will extend the deadline,” he added.
An undocumented Bangladeshi migrant worker living in Malaysia recently told this newspaper that he had registered with the programme but could not return to Bangladesh.
Plane tickets are scarce, he said.
On July 18, Malaysian Home Ministry announced the implementation of the B4G programme as part of its measures to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the country, the New Straits Times report says.
In an attempt to mitigate the crisis, Biman Bangladesh Airlines announced the operation of 16 additional flights only for migrant workers on Dhaka-Kuala Lumpur-Dhaka route from December 12 to December 31.
A total of six airlines operate 58 flights a week on Dhaka-Kuala Lumpur route. Of them, Biman and Malaysian Airlines operate 14 flights each, Malindo 13, US-Bangla and Air Asia seven each and Regent Airways three.
Following an initiative taken by the expatriates’ welfare ministry on December 9, the government has been providing a subsidy of Tk 10,000 per ticket to those who have registered for the B4G programme, according to the ministry officials.
Addressing a programme at Jatiya Press Club yesterday, Prof Tasneem Siddiqui, chair at the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit, said those who sent the migrant workers to Malaysia without proper documents should be held accountable.