Malaysia, Bangladesh to fingerprint 500,000 workers

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian and Bangladeshi officials will work together to fingerprint for the first time the estimated 500,000 Bangladeshis working legally and illegally in Malaysia, the home minister said Wednesday.

It is part of a wider scheme to fingerprint the about two million illegal immigrants in Malaysia, which depends on foreigners from mostly poorer regional countries to fill jobs in construction sites, plantations and other places shunned by locals.

Malaysia announced last week that it will offer amnesty to those who come forward from July 11 for two weeks. Some will be able to keep their jobs, while others will be deported without facing such penalties as caning for overstaying.

Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Wednesday that Malaysia had struck a separate agreement with Bangladesh's High Commission to facilitate the registration of their workers, beginning immediately.

Under the deal, government officials may go to factories where Bangladeshis work to register them. The two countries will also share information to crack down on traffickers who exploit Bangladeshi workers.

"The objective is to... ensure that these people are not exploited either by human traffickers, syndicates or third parties," Hishammuddin said.

Malaysia remains on a US human trafficking watch list, according to the annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which the State Department released this week.

The report, which ranks countries in line with their efforts to combat human trafficking, said Malaysia did not effectively investigate and prosecute labour trafficking cases.

"There remain many serious concerns regarding trafficking in Malaysia, including the detention of trafficking victims in government facilities," the report said.

Hishammuddin admitted Malaysia was still in the process of tackling the problem.

"I agree with them. I think we should still be on the watchlist because we have only just rolled out these measures" such as fingerprinting workers, he said.