amnesty.org, May 24 2010 -- |
The Malaysian authorities should take action to end widespread
workplace and police abuses of the migrant workers who make up more than
20 per cent of the country's workforce, Amnesty International said in a
report released on Wednesday.
Trapped: The Exploitation of Migrant Workers in Malaysia
do*****ents widespread abuses against migrant workers from eight South
Asian and Southeast Asian countries who are lured to Malaysia by the
promise of jobs but are instead used in forced labour or exploited in
"Migrant workers are critical to Malaysia's economy,
but they systematically receive less legal protection than other
workers," said Michael Bochenek, the report author and director of
policy at Amnesty International. "They are easy prey for unscrupulous
recruitment agents, employers and corrupt police."
from Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Nepal, are forced to work in hazardous
situations, often against their will, and toil for 12 hours a day or
more. Many are subject to verbal, physical and sexual abuse.
pay recruitment agents substantial sums of money to secure jobs, work
permits and training. Once they arrive, they often find that much of
what their agents told them about their new jobs is untrue — the pay,
type of work, even the existence of those jobs or their legal status in
Most workers have taken out loans at exorbitant
interest rates and simply cannot afford to return to their home
countries. Some are in situations close to bonded labour.
all employers hold their workers' passports, placing workers at risk of
arrest and in practice preventing them from leaving abusive workplaces.
Coercive practices such as these are indicators of forced labour.
laws are not effectively enforced, and labour courts may take months or
years to resolve cases. For domestic workers, who are not covered by
most of the labour laws, recourse to the courts is usually not an
"Malaysia can and must do better for its workforce.
Everyone, regardless of immigration status, is entitled to safe and fair
working conditions and to equal treatment under the law," said Michael
Amnesty International's report concludes that many
workers are victims of human trafficking. The Malaysian government has
the responsibility to prevent such abuses but instead facilitates
trafficking through its loose regulation of recruitment agents and
through laws and policies that fail to protect workers.
addition, Amnesty International heard over a dozen cases in which
Malaysian authorities delivered immigration detainees to traffickers
operating on the Thai border between 2006 and 2009.
imposes severe and excessive criminal penalties — in some cases caning —
on migrants who work without proper permits, even when errors by the
employer are the reason for immigration violations.
public roundups in markets and on city streets and indiscriminate,
warrantless raids on private dwellings in poorer neighbourhoods are
common. Police frequently ask migrants for bribes. Those who cannot pay
are arrested and held in deplorable conditions in immigration detention
"The Malaysian government must stop criminalizing its
migrant worker force and instead tackle forced and compulsory labour,"
said Michael Bochenek. "Until Malaysia's labour laws offer effective
protection and are effectively enforced, exploitation will continue."
International called on the Malaysian government to reform its labour
laws and promptly investigate abuses in the workplace and by police.
Malaysia should also make more effective use of its Anti-Trafficking in
Persons Act to prosecute individuals who recruit, transport or receive
workers through fraud or deception in order to exploit them.