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Ko Wunna

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. Ko Wunna is a 28-year-old resident of Burma's former capital, Rangoon, who was trafficked to Malaysia by gangs importing illegal workers in a constantly revolving racket in which, former participants say, the Malaysian police are also complicit.  Here, Ko Wunna about his experiences over three months working for a trafficking gang in the region in and around northern Malaysia's Kedah province, which borders Songkhla and Yala provinces in Thailand. He reveals that illegal migrants who don't come under the aegis of one gang are vulnerable to worse exploitation by others.

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Xuan

Malaysia is a destination and, to a much lesser extent, source and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and women and children subjected to sex trafficking. The overwhelming majority of trafficking victims are among the estimated two million documented and an even greater number of undocumented migrant laborers in Malaysia. 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.    Xuan had fallen in to debt when he cousin told her she could get her a job in the country as a masseuse. However, upon arrival Xuan was forced to do sex work to pay off debts incurred from air fares and travel expenses. After getting a phone call informing her that he child was ill Xuan escaped, jumping from the third floor of the building where she was being kept.  

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Aakash

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. Aakash, 24, from Nepal, became trapped in debt bondage in the electronics industry in Malaysia.

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Siti

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. Siti was 14 years old when her last remaining relative passed away and she needed to earn money. She was approached by a woman who told her she could get her factory work in Malaysia. However, upon arrival in Malaysia Siti was forced to work long hours in various homes doing domestic work. In the five years she was enslaved, Siti did not earn any money and was subjected to physical and sexual abuse. Following a tip off, Siti was finally rescued during a raid operation.

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Khanh

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. Khanh was looking for work to help her family when a neighbour offered to help her work in Malaysia. After being given money to enter as a tourist, Khanh was taken to the house where she would work. Forced to work long hours on little sleep, Khanh was under constant surveillance and subjected to physical abuse. Though she tried to escape a number of times, it was only when the daughter of the family she worked for came to visit that she was able to escape, hiding in the boot of her car.

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Janet

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. Malaysia is also a destination country for the trafficking of women and children for commercial sexual exploitation. Janet sought work overseas after her brother became ill. Convinced by recruiters, she travelled to Malaysia where she was told she would work as a waitress. However upon arrival Janet was told she would be sold off to men. Subjected to physical abuse and injected with drugs to disorientate her Janet never received money to help her sick brother. Janet was finally able to escape one day after convincing a client to lend her his phone and call for help.  

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Samantha

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 labor or debt bondage by their employers, employment agents, or informal labor recruiters when they are unable to pay the fees for recruitment and associated travel. Samantha was recruited from the Philippines for entertainment work in Malaysia but had her passport confiscated and was not paid for her work. She was able to escape during a police raid. Her account describes police corruption and a lack of help forthcoming from the Embassy of the Philippines.

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Putri

Putri is an Indonesian woman who was enslaved in Malaysia as a domestic servant for multiple employers. 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, often in pursuit of better economic opportunities. However, workers can find themselves imprisoned, exploited, and in debt bondage. The law allows many of the fees of migration, which are first paid by employers, to be deducted from workers’ wages, incentivising employers to prevent workers from ending their employment before fees are recovered.

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Irene

Irene is an Indonesian woman who was enslaved in Malaysia doing factory work that was hazardous to her health. 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, often in pursuit of better economic opportunities. However, workers can find themselves imprisoned, exploited, and in debt bondage. The law allows many of the fees of migration, which are first paid by employers, to be deducted from workers’ wages, incentivizing employers to prevent workers from ending their employment before fees are recovered.

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Intan

Intan is an Indonesian woman who was enslaved in Malaysia doing work that was hazardous to her health. 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, often in pursuit of better economic opportunities. However, workers can find themselves imprisoned, exploited, and in debt bondage. The law allows many of the fees of migration, which are first paid by employers, to be deducted from workers’ wages, incentivizing employers to prevent workers from ending their employment before fees are recovered.

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Aulia

Aulia is an Indonesian woman who was enslaved in Malaysia. 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, often in pursuit of better economic opportunities. However, workers can find themselves imprisoned, exploited, and in debt bondage. The law allows many of the fees of migration, which are first paid by employers, to be deducted from workers’ wages, incentivizing employers to prevent workers from ending their employment before fees are recovered.