Kuala Lumpur: More than 200 Bangladeshi migrant workers who claim their employers underpaid and abused them have sought refuge outside their country’s embassy in Malaysia, an envoy said.
Malaysia has been in the news in recent weeks over alleged mistreatment of Indians in the country.
The Bangladesh high commission has turned a section of its mission into a temporary shelter for some of the 225 workers,?but?most of them have been sheltering on the pavement since early December due to a lack of space inside.
“Out of sympathy we have provided them a place to stay, but we can only accommodate so much,” a senior Bangladeshi envoy said on condition of anonymity.
“We are trying our best to get the workers and employers to reach consensus, but it’s difficult because both sides have different views on the matter.”
The envoy said there were about 350,000 Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia, mainly engaged in the plantation and manufacturing sectors.
As Christians celebrated Christmas, a charity group provided some chicken curry with rice for the hungry and pale-looking Muslim migrant workers.
Many of the poor migrants paid thousands of dollars to agents to find them work in Malaysia where they hoped to make their fortunes. One 28-year-old Bangladeshi who gave his name as Hossain said he came to Malaysia in Septe-mber. “I paid the agent 12,000 ringgit (Rs1.41 lakh) and I sold my father’s land and cows to gather the money,” he said.
“My agent got me a job with a company that manufactured computer hard disks. According to the contract, I should be paid 800 ringgit a month but they only gave me 380 ringgit. When I questioned them, they threatened me and refused to give me back my passport. All I want now is my passport and to find another job. Fearing my safety, I came to the embassy with 300 ringgit and now I don’t have anything left.”
Another worker, Nazir Hossain, 32, said he had been in Malaysia for the past six months and was underpaid. “I was working in a shipping company but I was not satisfied with the treatment. I was not paid the right amount they promised. Instead they gave me only 400 ringgit a month.
Siddiq Miah, 42, had a similar tale. “I paid the agent in Bangladesh 12,000 ringgit to arrange a job for me, and he promised me a job in a factory, but when I came here, they refused to hire me on health grounds,” he said.“My mother, wife and children barely have enough to eat without my salary. I want my agent to return my passport so that I can go home.”
Malaysia, South-East Asia’s third largest economy, has an estimated 2.6 million legal and illegal foreign workers. They are critical to the nation’s key manufacturing and agriculture sectors, and many household rely on foreign domestic workers, mainly from Indonesia, Philippines and India.