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Bangladeshi migrants in Malaysia will soon get medical and disability benefits as the Southeast Asian country has decided to bring foreign workers under its Social Security Organization.

The Malaysian government's Social Security Organization (Socso) will provide social protection to foreign workers from January 1 next year, according to a statement issued by the country's Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran on Wednesday.

The comprehensive insurance will include medical benefit, temporary disablement benefit, permanent disablement benefit, constant-attendance allowance, dependants' benefit and rehabilitation, as well as RM 6,500 for repatriation.

Foreign workers would not be covered by the invalidity pension scheme of the country, Kulasegaran said.

Adrian Pereira, executive director of North South Initiative, a rights body based in Kuala Lumpur, told The Daily Star, "If any foreign worker is permanently disabled, he will not get monthly allowance, but lump sum and be repatriated home."

According to Kulasegaran's statement, Malaysian cabinet decided to include foreign workers in Socso in line with the Equality of Treatment Convention, 1925, under the International Labor Organization.

The move is significant for Bangladesh as nearly a million Bangladeshi migrants work there. Foreign workers so far have not been covered by Employees' Social Security Act 1969 of the country.

Only the Malaysian employees are currently covered by the social security plan of Socso while foreign workers are covered by a Workmen's Compensation Scheme.

"Under Workmen's Compensation Scheme, the foreign workers are compensated only if they face workplace accidents, not for sickness that does not require hospitalisation or accidents outside the workplace," Adrian said.

It has been a discriminatory policy, he said, adding that now workers – foreign or Malaysian – would be treated equally.

Mohammad Harun Al Rashid, a Bangladeshi migrant rights activist in Malaysia, praised the decision.

He has seen many Bangladeshi workers get sick or injured outside their workplaces. They also had to count big amounts for healthcare, he said.

"In many cases, they did not have enough money to see the doctor. In such cases, they just suffered and returned home, "he told The Daily Star.

It will be a great relief for the foreign workers who face illnesses or accidents in Malaysia, Harun said.

In his statement, Kulasegaran said employers who hire foreign workers with valid documents must register their employees with Socso and contribute to the Employment Injury Scheme under the Employees' Social Security Act 1969 (Act 4).

"Employers can go to any of Socso's 54 offices in the country, including Sabah and Sarawak, to register their foreign workers," he added.

On November 19, the minister urged the employers to register their illegal foreign workers with Socso.

The recent development is of importance as a landslide in Bukit Kukus of Penang on October 19 claimed eight lives, including five Bangladeshis.

"Many of those who died in the landslide did not have insurance coverage, so employers have to obtain approval and ensure all foreign workers are covered under the Social Security Organization," Kulasegaran told reporters in the Parliament lobby.


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