There are an estimated 212,000 people living in modern slavery in Malaysia (GSI 2018). The majority of those exploited are migrant and undocumented workers in the country. 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.
Ashraf and six other workers travelled to Malaysia from Bangladesh after they were given three-year contracts to work with a company at a wage of 30 ringgit ($8.75) per day. His passport was taken and upon arrival he was told the job he had been promised did not exist.
We all used the same agent. We stayed at the airport for a night. The next day, the employer and an agent came to collect us. Our passports were taken by them. They took us to Seremban to work with another company that had nothing to do with [the first company]. Myself and other workers telephoned [the first company], and they told us that the job I had been promised did not exist. We called numerous times, the first time being from the airport and the most recent being last month [June 2009]. The company said that they knew nothing about us.
Narrative credit to Amnesty International
Originally published in ‘Trapped: The Exploitation of Migrant Workers in Malaysia’