6th January 2024: FMT: 171 duped Bangladeshi migrant workers deserve compensation, govt told (includes Andy Hall’s full statement)
A migrant rights activist, Andy Hall, says the company director, manager or officer involved must be charged and blacklisted and duped Bangladeshi migrant workers deserve compensation. The 171 duped Bangladeshi migrant workers were arrested after taking part in a march to file a police report in December.
Original Source: FMT by FMT Reporters – 6th January 2024
PETALING JAYA: A migrant rights activist has urged the government to ensure adequate compensation for 171 duped Bangladeshi migrant workers coming to Malaysia for jobs that did not exist.
Andy Hall said the duped Bangladeshi migrant workers, who were arrested by police in Pengerang, Johor, last month after taking part in a march to file a police report, were deceived into paying high recruitment fees back home for non-existent jobs.
“They should be fully compensated at minimum wage levels for the months spent waiting for a non-existent job promised to them. They should also have all recruitment costs and related fees paid by them in Bangladesh fully returned to them, with interest.
“In addition, these workers should also be fully compensated for their suffering from the destitution they have experienced as a result of their unemployment and isolation, akin to a situation of forced labour,” he said in a statement.
Hall also said the company director, manager or officer involved must be charged and blacklisted by the home and human resources ministries.
“It is insufficient to merely blacklist legal entities or companies,” he said, citing a joint statement by home minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail and human resources minister Steven Sim earlier today.
Joint statement by home minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail and human resources minister Steven Sim – duped Bangladeshi migrant workers
Saifuddin and Sim said their ministries viewed the case in Pengerang seriously and would not compromise with any party involved in foreign worker exploitation. They agreed that the employers must face legal action under several laws, including the law against human trafficking.
The employers would be blacklisted from new foreign worker employment applications, their remaining migrant worker quotas and approval letters would be cancelled, and they would be prevented from renewing work permits for existing foreign workers.
6th January 2024: Andy Hall’s response to Joint Ministerial Statement on Pengerang Protesting Workers (full statement)
The 6th January 2024 Joint Press Statement by the Home and Human Resource Ministers in Malaysia (see above), outlining potentially precedent setting enforcement action to be taken against employers of the courageous Pengerang workers, is most welcome.
The statement demonstrates some initial commitments by the government to strengthen foreign workers’ welfare protections nationwide, enforce the rule of law and crack down on systemic corruption, impunity and criminal syndicates that currently pervade migrant worker management processes across the country.
However, there are omissions in this Ministerial statement and the proposed action plan that remain of concern.
This group of protesting Pengerang foreign workers stood up to actors involved in what is essentially an organised crime syndicate trafficking Bangladeshi workers into Malaysia for forced labour, at great risk to themselves.
These workers certainly should not have been detained for asserting their right to justice and remedy. More importantly however, they are entitled to compensation for serious wrongdoings committed against them in Bangladesh and Malaysia. The joint ministerial statement is silent on any compensation or remedy for these victims.
These Pengerang workers were deceived into paying exorbitant recruitment fees in Bangladesh for non-existent full time jobs in Malaysia, to be paid at minimum wage levels. They should therefore also be fully compensated at minimum wage levels for the months spent waiting for a non existent job that was promised to them. They should in addition have all recruitment costs and related fees paid by them in Bangladesh fully returned to them, with interest.
In addition, these workers should also be fully compensated for their suffering from the destitution that they have experienced as a result of their unemployment and isolation, akin to a situation of forced labour.
The perpetrators of the abuses against these workers certainly should be subject to due process and penalised if found guilty, as the Ministerial statement suggests.
But any government investigation in this case needs to move beyond immediate employers and recruiters to also investigate and take action against the organised crime syndicate trafficking Bangladeshi workers like these into Malaysia for forced labour (Related story – FMT 30th Dec 2023: Migrants being duped into Malaysia because of govt’s failure to curb criminal trafficking syndicates and organised crime network, says activist Andy Hall)
The Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission and all law enforcement agencies involved in corruption, organised crime and money laundering in the country need to also be brought into such an investigation. This would contribute to strengthening the rule of law and cracking down on systemic corruption, impunity and criminal syndicates that pervade migrant worker management processes across the country.
The newly introduced section 90B of the Employment Act 1955, concerning the offence of forced labour, is also relevant to this case but is not mentioned at all in the joint ministerial statement.
This reformed legal provision prescribes a maximum fine of MYR 100,000 or imprisonment of up to 2 years or both for deceiving a worker and preventing them from proceeding beyond the place where their employment activity is done.
Even if workers in this case were not provided with any work at all, they have limited freedom of movement and essentially have been prevented from removing themselves from the control and authority of bogus employers, agents and middle men. Wrongs have been committed by various parties in subjecting the workers to conditions akin to forced labour, which should be prosecuted under section 90B.
Additionally, the Director-General of Labour has the power to summon and inquire into this offence pursuant to section 79 of the employment act and to institute criminal proceedings against offenders. Under section 87, the court more importantly may direct that a fine received under this Act be paid to the complainant as compensation.
Since Malaysia ratified the Forced Labour Protocol in March 2022, provisions in section 90B were designed for precisely the form of exploitation seen in the Pengerang case. The Employment Act procedures are efficient and simple. Yet instead, complex and time consuming processes pursuant to trafficking legislation are frequently pursued, and will be pursued also in this case, according to the ministerial statement.
Usually in such trafficking cases, foreign workers are detained involuntarily in isolated shelters and then deported without remedy or compensation. This is not what most destitute victims of the current organised crimes syndicate have said they want in remedy to their predicament.
Victims in stranded foreign worker cases like the Pengerang case have stated that they need only a decent job and compensation, which can be provided to them through utilising s90B of the Employment Act. These victims have said they do not want to be further detained and/or deported in response to their awful situation. They do not want to be labelled as ‘trafficking victims’ if negative consequences result.
In addition, the enforcement action proposed in the joint ministerial statement is focused on the employer – presumably a company. Both recruiters and hiring employers are jointly or severally responsible for the offences against the workers as the offences could not have occurred without their collusion.
It is also critical that directors, managers and officers of companies involved be jointly or severally charged of related offenses and blacklisted as per section 101B of the Employment Act 1955. It is insufficient to merely blacklist legal entities or companies.
Regarding an effective response to the current crisis of deceived and stranded foreign workers in Malaysia, the Ministers both also need to ensure that the response outlined in the Pengerang case also leads to established operating procedures for future responses by district level enforcers who receive complaints of or detect similar rights violations most frequently on a daily basis.
The Pengerang case is not a unique case. The positive response to this case by the ministers as outlined in their joint statement, subject to the above concerns, needs to be replicated by officers in similar cases currently impacting 100,000s of victims of this organised crime network or syndicate that continues to traffick foreign workers into forced labour in Malaysia.
See also: Related story – FMT 30th Dec 2023: Migrants being duped into Malaysia because of govt’s failure to curb criminal trafficking syndicates and organised crime network, says activist Andy Hall
See also: 6th Jan 2024: FMT: Away from families, in debt, and jobless in a foreign land
See also: 6th Jan 2024: FMT – Saifuddin, Sim to discuss status of freeze on foreign worker recruitment
See also: 6th Jan 2024: New Strait Times – Company that promised 171 Bangladeshi workers non-existent jobs blacklisted
See also: 5th Jan 2024: New Strait Times – MCA: Don’t just fine employers, hold ministry accountable as well for unemployed foreign workers
See also: 29th Dec 2023: Malay Mail – Set up probe on exploitation of migrant workers and new ministry to manage their affairs, Suhakam tells Putrajaya
See also: 27th Dec 2023: New Strait Times – Strict action against employers, agencies neglecting 171 Bangladeshi workers: MEF
See also: 27th Dec 2023: FMT – Bangladeshis duped over jobs are victims of human trafficking, says rights group
See also: 26th Dec 2023: FMT – Azalina wants urgent probe into 171 Bangladeshis duped over jobs
See also: 26th Dec 2023: FMT – High recruitment fees make greedy agents bring in workers, says group
See also: 25th Dec 2023: FMT – Probe recruitment agents, MACC told after arrest of Bangladeshis
See also: 25th Dec 2023: FMT – Human resources ministry comes to the rescue of Bangladeshi workers
See also: 25th Dec 2023: FMT – Cops nab 171 foreigners protesting lack of jobs in Johor
See also: 30th Oct 2023: FMT: Andy Hall refers stranded Bangladeshi workers’ plight in Malaysia to UN Human Rights Council
See also: 19th Oct 2023: Malaysia facing huge excess of 1/4 million migrant laborers
See also: 21st Sep 2023: Malaysian government has 15 source countries for foreign workers – Comments by Andy Hall