KUALA LUMPUR – A damning report by The Guardian on the life of immigrant workers in Malaysia is making its rounds in the social media. The report, which details on undocumented workers from Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Cambodia, tells of the horrible conditions they had to endure while working in Malaysia.
According to the report by Pete Pattisson, these workers who came to Malaysia to earn a living have been restricted from having a decent life with no proper accommodation, limited healthcare facilities and discrimination from the locals Sonam Lapcha, 30 a migrant worker from Nepal has spent five years living alongside 300 other migrants in crammed workers’ hostel with toilets that had no doors and only two kitchens to serve the entire workforce.
There were also tales of drunks staggering around the hostel. “It was much worse than Nepal,” said Lapcha who was barely earning any money since the company was not paying him the amount which was promised. “We even had to buy our own beds and bedding. The company only gave us a metal frame. “The company didn’t pay us what we were promised. And we had to spend the little we did make on food and transport. Instead of earning money, I was throwing it away.” Mahesh Mondal, 20 resigned from his job when a friend told him that he could earn more as a security guard.
He had to leave behind his passport, which his employer has confiscated. When he contracted dengue fever, six weeks later, he was turned away from the hospital as he has no passport, leaving him to resort to an alternative “cure” for dengue which was popular among migrants and that was to down 10 cans of energy drinks daily.
The report said that these migrants, especially the undocumented ones are also afraid of the police whom they describe as “robbers in a uniform”. Vani, an undocumented worker from Cambodia, has been picked up by the police for four times and has to pay them off every time. He was beaten up the first time he tried to talk his way out and had to hand over RM700 and since then, whenever they catch him, he just asks them the amount needed. Most of these workers arriving though legal routes become undocumented in order to escape dire accommodation, low pay or because employers refuse to renew their work permits. “The workers are not illegal.
They are made illegal by their employers,” said an official from the Nepal embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Migration Working Group Malaysia coordinator, Sumitha Shaanthinni Kishna said that the migrant workers are caught up in a system that is arbitrary and indifferent. “The informal sector is thriving; locals don’t want to do this work and the cost of recruiting documented workers is unaffordable to some employers,” explained Sumitha. “There is very little political will to deal with the problem. As long as someone is making money out of migrants, the exploitation will not stop.”