Minister of Home Affairs Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong yesterday explained that two Bangladeshi workers were tested positive for COVID-19.
This was said in response to concerns raised by the public on an article published on a Bangladeshi website stating that there are 25,000 Bangladesh workers in Brunei Darussalam and that a large number of these foreign workers are undocumented and seven of them were tested positive of COVID-19.
The minister said, according to information shared by the Ministry of Health (MoH) only two Bangladesh workers were tested positive of the virus. All their treatment cost, including COVID-19 laboratory test, was borne by the Brunei government.
“Both Bangladeshi workers were discharged and they returned to their employer after undergoing treatment at the National Isolation Centre,” he said.
The minister said both workers had gone through a screening and evaluation process that involved several agencies including local and foreign through Brunei’s foreign mission in Bangladesh and also through relevant agencies or ministries in Bangladesh.
The minister shared that according to the 2019 labour census issued by the Labour Department, there are 12,841 Bangladesh workers in the country and 73 per cent of them (9,400) worked in the construction sector. As for undocumented migrants, Immigration and National Registration Department (INRD) statistics from 2019 up to March 2020 showed 13 foreign nationals – 12 Malaysians and one Indonesian – were found to have invalid documents while staying in the country.
The Enforcement Section of the INRDand Labour Department continuously carry out inspections to ensure all rules and regulations relating to foreign workers are complied to.
The minister said statistics from INRD showed that within the same period, 110 foreigners violated their working pass by not working with their registered employers and conducting business activities.
“Out of the figure, 68 were Bangladesh, 22 Indians and 13 Indonesians. Those found guilty were issued compounds and deported from Brunei.”
Touching on enforcement carried out at the foreign workers’ dormitories, he said 18 warnings were issued by the Labour Department to their employers for not providing adequate facilities and the foreign workers’ lincence of those who did not comply by the time of follow-up inspections,would be cancelled.
“All employers need to take responsibility in the welfare of foreign workers and they also must take note on the activities and whereabouts of the workers as well as providing conducive dormitories in accordance to Employment Order 2009.
“The employers also need to report the status of their workers’ health if they have COVID-19 symptoms. The employers were urged to comply with the MoH’s advices like social distancing and enhanced cleanliness in dormitories, work places as well as surroundings to avoid transmission of COVID-19.”
Under Chapter 83 (2) of Employment Order 2009, employers must ensure that if their workers fall sick during duty they should be provided immediate medical attention either at clinics or hospitals. If they fail to comply, the employers face BND3,000 fine or imprisonment of not more than a year or both.
The minister said since March 21, INRD prohibited the entry of foreign workers in the country and by March 24, all foreign nationals were not allowed entry to Brunei. There were also changes to immigration control post operational hours with only critical sectors given special permission to enter and exit the country.
The foreign nationals given special permission were directed to undergo self-isolation for 14 days at several isolation centres provided by the government.
Based on 2019 Labour Census, Indonesia topped the highest number of foreign workers in the country with 23,121 followed by Bangladesh (12,841), the Philippines (10,851), India (9,571) and Malaysia (8,604).