Migrant workers worse off here than back home, say Asian MPs
An Asian parliamentary caucus on labour migration has called on Putrajaya to reveal details of MoUs it signed with nations who send their citizens to Malaysia for work, following reports of abuse and exploitation of migrant workers in the country.
Nepal MP Zakir Hussain said his embassy officials told him that one Nepali death was recorded at detention camps in Malaysia every week due to starvation and limited access to healthcare.
"A total of 346 Nepalese nationals died here last year, with 52 deaths in detention camps.
"What I don't understand is how Malaysia has adequate laws on migrant labour but practises low standards of human rights," Zakir said at a press conference today.
The caucus, which is on a fact-finding mission to Malaysia, also accused Putrajaya of being a stumbling block to the finalising of the Asean Framework Instrument on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights of Migrant Workers which has been in the works since 2007.
Klang MP Charles Santiago, who is a member of the caucus, said the government has signed MoUs with Bangladesh, Nepal and Indonesia, among others, but details of these were unknown.
"It appears that those who are familiar with the content of the MoUs are labour brokers, who use it to manipulate migrant workers. This is the common complaint among the embassies and workers themselves.
"There is no reason for these MoUs to be shrouded in secrecy," Santiago added.
One of the recommendations of the caucus is for Putrajaya to have a government-to-government approach in the recruitment of migrant workers in order to minimise recruitment costs and exploitation by outsourcing to companies and labour brokers.
The caucus also found that in addition to violation of labour rights including poor wages and long working hours, migrant workers in Malaysia continue to live in poverty.
"In some instances, they are worse off that they were before in their country of origin," said Pakistan MP Sabiha Nazir.
According to Santiago, the Malaysian Labour Department declined an invitation from the caucus to attend the three-day meeting which ends today.
Mariquit Melgar, a representative from the Philippines, also called on the Malaysian government to practice fair play, saying that Filipinos working in Malaysia since the 1970s have contributed to the development and economy of Malaysia.
"In a session with our workers last month, they told us that they are not here to create trouble, and that they are doing their best, working long hours.
"They are not terrorists, they are not robbers, they just want better treatment and fair wages, is that too much to ask for?" she said.
In calling for recruitment of migrant workers to be conducted on an inter-governmental basis, Santiago said this would protect them from being exploited by outsourcing companies and labour brokers who were practicing "contract substitution".
"The Pakistan MP revealed that workers from her country had signed agreements with high wages and wonderful terms in Pakistan, but when they got here, these outsourcing companies would substitute their contracts, where they would end up with poor wages and bad living conditions.
"The MP said that workers she met here yesterday were practically crying over allegations that they had been cheated by these middlemen," Santiago said.
Bar Council's chairperson for migrants and refugees Datuk M. Ramachelvam said that what was needed was another amnesty programme following the failure of the previous 6P programme by the government, which was aimed at regularising undocumented migrant workers.
"In one 6P processing centre in Wangsa Maju, the agent was collecting about RM2,000 from each migrant worker and there were about 8,000 there applying, which means the agent collected about RM16 million.
"But not one of them got their documents," he said.
He called on Putrajaya to take charge of both the recruitment and amnesty programme to prevent migrant workers from being fleeced by third parties.
The Asian parliamentary caucus representing 15 countries also called on Putrajaya to practise strong political will in restructuring the management of migrant workers. – April 16, 2014. - Malaysian Insider, Migrant workers worse off here than back home, say Asian MPs