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.
Mostafa, a 23-yr old from Bangladesh, travelled to Malaysia for work through an agent. He worked in a furniture factory for four or five months before his agent moved him to a hostel to wait for more work. He and the other workers had their relatives wire money so they could cover their living expenses during the time they were out of work. 30 workers shared quarters near the factory in Klang.
The agent [in Bangladesh] said the company was good, the salary also good. The agent told me I’ll be working in an electronics factory. This was in Bangladesh. When I got here, I was given work in a furniture factory.
He kept me there for three months […] The agent didn’t provide us any food.
It is like a shop block, maybe 40 feet by 19 feet […] Thirty people cannot be there, but we have to stay there. We sleep on the floor, one next to the other.
Narrative credit to Amnesty International
Originally published in ‘Trapped: The Exploitation of Migrant Workers in Malaysia’