Monday, May 19, 2008

ILLEGITIMATE DETENTION CAMPS at our doorsteps….Yet another shocking story of our migrant workers

It came as a shock to me to see more than 900 Bangladeshi citizens in small groups chatting and hanging and some looking far away…around the PSM Semenyih branch office at Fasa 5, Bandar Rinching. This was at the end of February 2008. We were informed that they were stationed there by their Embassy, pending employment agencies finding them job. As it was election period, some of them helped us with election work and we provided them food.

One month later, after the election when I was at the PSM Semenyih Service Centre, the Bangladeshi workers were moving up and down collecting drinking water in bottles from neighbors. When we queried, they said, no water supply at their mansion. And then we heard from neighbors that these people are not even being fed properly – only 2 meals, a breakfast and evening meal. More shocking their numbers keep increasing.

Curiosity, led our team from PSM Kajang Branch to do a fact-finding with help of some Bangladeshi workers from CHG Plywood, Cheras on 1May 2008 – they helped to translate -a show of solidarity!

Initially, they were afraid to talk to us as they have 3 guards watching them and it seems they have been beaten few times for talking to outsiders. But after 15minutes, we were surrounded by about 15 of them and this is what they narrate:

“At any one time, about 800 to 1,000 Bangladesh workers are stationed here since 7 months ago. Our Embassy provides us breakfast at 10am and little food at 7.30pm. Agents brought us to Malaysia but after we arrive at the airport, no employers took us. Some of us was cheated,- in Bangladesh, we signed a contract that promises good job and salary but when we arrive here, they send us to a rural place to work at plantation without proper salary and some of us were taken to work in a factory and they pay us peanuts – we could not stand the humiliating treatment from our employers and we lodged complain to our Embassy and we camped outside our Embassy – the Embassy brought us here and we been staying at this mansion without any salary or money. We survive only on the food provided by our Embassy…..”

“The worst is we don’t have any valid document -passport or work permit, it’s with our previous employer & agent. We have to stay here until the agencies find us alternative job. If no job, then they will send us back and that is only if we could afford to find the means (money) to purchase travel ticket to return home by our self. Some of us do want to go home but where can we find the money when we already paid employment agencies RM9, 000 to RM12, 000 to work in Malaysia?

“We are not the only one, in Mahkota, Cheras and Nilai, Seremban too there are mansions with thousands of our country men…”

“Our living condition? Well, 800 of us sharing 12 rooms! We have no facilities in the house except water and electricity supply…. not even mat or pillow…we use our chapel for pillow…. we are like a sardine compressed in a tin…we cannot more around freely as we don’t have document…we are trapped here as if animals in the zoo…so, we hang around outside the mansion…. last month during RELA raid, 520 of us were arrested…we could only show them our photocopy passport and they released us upon some online checking”

We were given a document from Bangladesh High Commission Labour Wing dated 4 Feb 2008, which has the address of ‘Hostel’ for Bangladeshi workers facing problem with employers. It says, 6 premises in Kajang Perdana (3), Cheras (2), and Nilai (1) were rented to accommodate the workers. Copy of the letter sent to Immigration, Labor Department and District Police.

“Yes, we did sign a work contract in Bangladesh but we were not able to read the content, we believe whatever the agent says. We are provided a copy…please take a look…we are not hired by the same agencies though…”

We were shown a document ‘printed copy at Dhaka, Bangladesh’ written in Bahasa Malaysia and addressed to Top Intelgold Sdn Bhd located at Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman. The letter says Malaysian government has approved the company’s application to bring in 1000 migrant workers via a letter IM.101/HQ-J/857-1 (2434) dated 06/04/2007. It also says that the company can bring in 260 Bangladesh workers and the names were listed in the document. It further explains the process of bringing in the workers. They were to work in the plantation.

The workers produced a copy of employment contract dated 10-4-2007 between Top Intelgold Sdn Bhd (called Employer) who was represented by Bangladesh Agent: Malay Trade International Ltd, supposedly a license recruiting agency and employee Mazad. Terms of contract states the employee will be working in a plantation as general worker (total workers: 540) with minimum basic monthly salary RM520 + overtime (3 hours) = RM739.18. Some important element in the contract:

- Levy RM540 will be deducted through 12-month installment, yearly medical examination fees to be deducted from employees’ salary.

- No EPF,

- Not allowed to participate in any political and activities of those connected with Trade Union in Malaysia and will be repatriated if found creating social problems.

- Female workers can be terminated within 24 hours if they are pregnant without consent from company

Any layman can see the gross violation of labor rights in the work contract. Even worse, in the above case the plantation company hiring the workers not mentioned at all when they should be the ‘rightful’ employers and not the Employment Agency or their subsidiary. The ‘rightful’ employer definitely can escape from any charges relating to the rights of the workers. Obviously Immigration and Labour Department are partners in crime pretending hard to be concern over the rise of thousands of migrant workers in Malaysia who are further subject to exploitation and humiliation.

What are your demands?

“Simple, give us job or send us home. We need our passport back…you cannot lock us here. We can find job on our own if our previous employers give us release letter. Some of us have labor cases but no information received. You know, if we are employed by plantation company, we are not able to work in factory because the levy is different –RM1, 200 for factory workers & RM500 for plantation workers – we even get arrested for this reason on allegation we are cheating the government! This long waiting and without anything to do is really killing us….we are worried of our family back home and our future…..we are even worried to go back without any money in our hand….we have huge debts because we sold our property and some of us borrowed money to come here thinking we have a bright future…..but look at us…worst than beggars! ”

Where do we go from here?

It’s a shame to note how our government has created brokers to rob from the poor migrants…. not in hundreds but millions of cash. Even worst the government has legal means to suck dry the poor migrant workers. All their imprudent policies has now led to 6 illegal detention camps with inhumane treatment.

Clearly the capitalist government of Malaysia has no mercy for the endless sufferings of these workers. Since cheap labor policy is the only means for the Capitalist to multiply their profits, there is no way we can put immediate full stop for their suffering. Whether the new government in 5 states can take lead to bring changes to the plight of these workers is still a big question mark as they too are very much in alliance with the business class e.g. no objection to FTA, which will encourage migration without border and law to protect the workers, be it local or immigrant!

So, do we have solution for these workers…

Released by,

Letchimi Devi

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