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2017 (Narrative date)

Foreign workers constitute more than 20 percent of the Malaysian workforce and typically migrate voluntarily—often illegally—to Malaysia from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Burma, Indonesia, the Philippines, and other Southeast Asian countries, mostly in pursuit of better economic opportunities. Some of these migrants are subjected to forced labour or debt bondage by their employers, employment agents, or informal labour recruiters when they are unable to pay the fees for recruitment and associated travel.

Aakash, 24, from Nepal, became trapped in debt bondage in the electronics industry in Malaysia.

I have to work for three years just to pay off the money I borrowed to get this job. I paid $1600 to a recruitment agent in Nepal at 48% interest. I feel terrible because of this huge loan. I know our earnings are below the minimum wage, but what can we do about it? If you are sick, they don’t care. They don’t want to let you return home. If you want to leave before the end of your three year contract you have to pay three months salary. If there was no fine, I’d go home right now.


As told to The Guardian