Malaysia is one of Asia's biggest employers of foreign labour. But recently, cases of deaths, abuse and forced labour have come to light. What is going on? Who is protecting these migrant workers?
KATHMANDU, April 10: Nepali migrant workers returning from Malaysia have dsclosed that they were beaten up, starved and tortured while in detention.
Such abuse and torture meted out by Malaysian security authorities to Nepali workers living there illegally may constitute breach of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).
Malaysian authorities generally arrest migrants entering Malaysia illegally or overstaying their visas and violating immigration law. Those arrested are sent to jail and to detention camps, where they are badly tortured before they return home.
“They first forced me to strip naked and then badly tortured me. I underwent such torture four times in prison and twice in a detention camp,” recalled Krishna Neupane, who returned home from Malaysia a month ago.
Fourty-year-old Neupane, who hails from Nibuwakharka VDC-6, Syangja district, told Republica, “After I was forcibly stripped, the police asked me to walk on my knees while holding my ears. They made me do physical exercises against my will and would beat me whenever I refused.”
If he refused to take his clothes off, the policemen would tie his hands and legs with rope and thrash him, he added.
Neupane weighed 94 kg when he was arrested but after eight months in prison and two months in detention camp prior to being sent home, he was 38 kg. “Due to regular torture in detention, I have lost 56 kg,” the frail-looking man said.
Neupane had entered Malaysia illegally via Bangladesh on December 20, 2011. He paid Rs 120,000 to a manpower company in the capital to secure a job in a hotel there. The company sent him to Malaysia along with five other Nepalis, on tourist visas.
The manpower company told him that a work-permit visa would be processed after three months’ stay in Malaysia; but he never obtained the visa, according to Neupane.
He also came to learn that Nepali migrant workers are traded right upon their arrival at the airport. Malaysian employers hire them on the basis of their physical strength, education level and capacity for work. Neupane was also traded, and hired as a security guard.
He was paid 600 ringgit a month although the contract mentioned payment of 1,000 ringgit. He could earn remuneration as per the contract only after working overtime. He worked 12 hours every day.
According to him, he worked for two years in the same company while the five others who had accompanied him to Malaysia were arrested and detained for illegal stay in the country. Following the arrest of his friends, he visited the Nepali embassy there to seek assistance. When this proved futile, he decided to stay and work in Malaysia illegally.
While working as a security guard at a hotal, police came to learn about his illegal status. After that they repeatedly charged him money until he was detained on February 16, 2014, and then badly tortured.
He was able to return to Nepal after the embassy issued him a travel document (2909) and his family sent an air ticket.
Neupane’s story is similar to that of other Nepali workers who entered Malaysia illegally and faced torture following detention.
Fourty-year-old Narayan Gelal of Badkadiyale VDC-2, Khotang, who entered Malaysia some four and half years ago, was in prison together with Neupane. “Security personnel at the jail and the detention camps entertained themselves by torturing us in various ways, such as chaining us outside until we felt scorched and beating us up badly,” he said.
Udhav Chaulagain of Gunsi VDC-7, Ramechhap and Ramesh Pokhrel of Thuladihi VDC-2, Syangja also experienced similar torture in Malaysian jails and detention centers.
Meanwhile, Niranjan Man Singh, Nepal’s ambassador to Malaysia, seemed oblivious of the Nepali migrant workers’ plight while talking to Republica over the phone. “We’ve never received any report about such torture after being stripped naked,” said Singh.
However, Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey said that the issue has drawn the government’s serious concern. “We have asked our embassy in Malaysia to dig out the truth. We are going to investigate the matter thoroughly,” Pandey said.
There are altogether 32 prisons in Malaysia and Nepali workers are serving jail terms in all of them. However, both the government and the Nepali embassy are unaware of the real plight of Nepali detainees.
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