malaysia investigates cases of migrant workers left jobless, with passports seized
In line with the government’s crackdown on corruption and fight against labour abuse, Malaysia has launched an investigation to understand how scores of migrant workers arrived from South Asian countries without jobs, despite paying substantially high fees to middlemen to get employment, officials and rights groups informed.
The issue has brought back the spotlight on concerns over labour abuses in Malaysia, which has recently encountered a number of accusations of exploitation of workers.
Hundreds of Bangladeshi and Nepali workers have arrived in the country since last December after paying up to a whopping $4,500 to get employment, Reuters news agency quoted officials of rights groups who have interviewed several of the workers.
Many relied on heavy loans to make up for the recruitment fees and are now unable to start repaying owing to the lack of jobs or salaries, the activists said, adding their passports were seized by recruitment agents on arrival.
Their situation was exacerbated by dozens of factors, including debt bondage, isolation, poor living conditions, and limited freedom of movement after their passports were taken away, independent labour activist Andy Hall mentioned.
Deception, passport confiscation, and debt bondage due to large recruitment fees are counted among indicators of ‘forced labour’ by the International Labour Organisation.
Last week, Minister for Human Resources V Sivakumar visited a group of 226 migrant workers from Bangladesh and Nepal who had been in Malaysia for at least 40 days without the jobs they had been promised. He called their crowded accommodation “appalling”, while vowing to find them employment at the earliest.
Malaysia is a key manufacturing hub at the heart of the global supply chain. In recent years, it has faced serious accusations of forced labour in manufacturing and palm oil production, including some by the US which prohibited imports from several of its firms for such actions.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh has called for greater transparency from Kuala Lumpur.