Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar said Bangladeshi workers who had visas approved in 2007 but who had not yet arrived in Malaysia would not be allowed to take up employment there. 532 workers who have already arrived in Malaysia on March 8 and 9 will be sent back, said Malaysian authorities.
This decision affects some 55,000 Bangladeshi workers, and comes at a time when the country faces the threat of a recession.
An uproar was caused in the previous week when Talat Mahmud Khan of the Bangladeshi high commission in Malaysia revealed that about 70,000 of his compatriots had received visas.
Protests were raised by Malaysians, with the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) vice president A. Balasubramaniam arguing that the situation for Malaysian workers was bleak enough without additional foreign manpower being brought in.
In January, the government banned the hiring of new foreign workers in the manufacturing and services sectors after a report forecast 45,000 Malaysians would lose their jobs in the next few months.
However, Human Resources Minister S. Subramaniam had said the Bangladeshis would be filling jobs in the plantation and construction sector, where "There is still a great demand for foreign workers in these sectors as we are unable to find locals to fill them".
Meanwhile, President of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies Ghulam Mustafa said they would request the Malaysian government to reconsider the decision, and the country's acting high commissioner in Kuala Lumpur, Waisuzzaman, said that the Home Secretary had assured him in a meeting that the Malaysian government would reconsider its decision.
In the meantime, the Bangladeshi workers, many of whom had paid M$12,000 ($3,226, £2,357) in fees, are in a tight fix. The Malaysian government has said that the government would refund workers' levies paid by employers, but has not spelled out whether the workers would be refunded.
Talat Mahmud Khan, labor counselor with the Bangladesh High Commission, said "They have lost a lot. Their families will be ruined."
The Daily News, Malaysia cancels 55,000 visas for Bangladeshis, 12 March 2009, http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=79336
BBC News, Malaysia cuts Bangladeshi visas , 11 March 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7936452.stm
Taiwan News, Malaysia urges ban on workers from Bangladesh, 11 March 2009, http://www.etaiwannews.com/etn/news_content.php?id=888614〈=eng_news
International Herald Tribune, Malaysia pulls visas for 55,000 Bangladesh workers , 11 March 2009, http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2009/03/11/asia/AS-Malaysia-Bangladeshi-W...