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?
He decided to take a leap of faith, travelling to an isolated oil palm estate, some 10km away from the nearest town and accessible only by four-wheel drive along dirt roads.
Little did he know that he was leaving life in Negri Sembilan for a nightmare.
The 29-year-old was among 18 people, including five children, rescued by police after being trafficked and exploited by a couple managing the estate.
Jag was made to work long hours and paid next to nothing for his hard labour.
The victims have told police that the adults were made to work 12-hour shifts almost daily and some of the children were forced to carry the harvested fruits without pay.
One victim even claimed that a two-year-old was being fed only with “teh O” because the parents were afraid of having their salaries deducted should they ask for milk.
Relating his ordeal to the police, Jag said he had arrived as a labourer in the estate in 2015 together with his wife and two kids, aged two and five, and were made to share a small room with another family in a building, smaller than a low-cost house.
Despite having to live in deplorable conditions – the building was so dirty and cramped with 18 people – Jag said he decided to endure it because the management had promised a good pay package.
However, the management started deducting money from their salary for every food item they received, he alleged.
“However, they always deducted more than the actual price of the item. After deducting from our salaries, some of us only got RM100 each month.
“We were promised a steady income but once we got our salaries, the management would give excuses by saying that we told them to get so many things and they were at a loss,” Jag told the police.
“We left our hometown, thinking that our life would turn around but it only got worst. The children, including mine, were supposed to go to school but because of the management, they had to work, too.
“We were threatened if we asked about our salary. They even took away our identity cards because they were afraid we would run away,” Jag claimed to the police.
During the midnight operation, officers from the Perak Crime Investigation Department (CID), together with the Pengkalan Hulu CID, had raided the 202ha estate as the workers slept.
Police have detained the couple – a 43-year-old man and 24-year-old woman – believed to be acting as middlemen and management for these workers.
The woman is from Negri Sembilan and it is believed that she had forced the children to work without wages. Her husband is from Pokok Sena, Kedah.
The two have been placed under remand until March 3, at the Pengkalan Hulu police headquarters.
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