Malaysia criticised for migrant treatment

The international human rights group, Amnesty International has released a damning report on Malaysia’s treatment of migrant workers in the country with workers apprently exploited and lured into jobs with false promises.

A large proportion of Malaysia’s migrant work force are believed to be of Burmese origin, whilst migrant workers make up an enormous one in five of the entire work force, with some even suggesting that the figure could even be as high as 1 in 3, mainly in construction, fisheries, plantations and other dangerous professions.

The report, entitled; Trapped: The Exploitation of Migrant Workers in Malaysia, documents what it calls ‘widespread’ abuse of migrant workers.

It condemns labour practices which are common in Asia such as the holding of migrants’ papers by employers; “its a situation of labour exploitation” explains Mr Michael Bochenek, the report’s author.

Mr. Bochenek was quoted on Amnesty’s web site saying that the Malaysian authorities were “criminalising it’s migrant workforce”, or as Mr. Bochenek told DVB; “there is an effort to criminalise immigration wherever it occurs”.

He adds that they “systematically received less legal protection” from courts and the judicial system, with the report also stating that many migrants receive low wages, unsafe working conditions and live with the threat of arrest, extortion and deportation.

The issue of holding travel documents of migrant workers which the report’s author said was widespread was heavily condemned, but Mr. Bochenek did believe that the Malaysian authorities may review the situation.

London based Amnesty was petitioning the Malaysian government to amend laws in order to guarantee foreign workers better protection, because for instance; “domestic workers, who are not covered by most of the labour laws, recourse to the courts is usually not an option”.

Workers whom Mr Bochenek stated the Malaysian economy is dependent upon; “dependency upon foreign labour is so high” he told DVB.

Many, including the prominent Malaysian NGO, Tenaganita and Amnesty are asking why Malaysia receives official foreign workers whilst refugees are unable to work legally.

Last month it was reported that migrants were going on hunger strike in Lenggeng camp near the capital, Kuala Lumpur. “Those are the few responses that detainees have to protest their detention”…. “you would readily understand why they would want to protest the conditions they were held in”, said Mr Bochenek of viewing conditions in Malaysian detention centres as part of his research.

This report follows a February decree from the authorities that they would clamp down on illegal ‘aliens’ in the country, with the Home Minister stating that they would make foreigners feel; “afraid and threatened”. This order may have stemmed from a US state department reclassification of Malaysia as a ‘tier 3’ country for human trafficking.

Malaysian Human Resource Minister S. Subramaniam told AP that; “The system of bringing in foreign workers is a well-established legal system. … It is fair to everybody,”….. “We offer the same kind of protection to foreigners (as to locals). … We don’t protect employers who exploit workers.”

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