Daily Star April 6th 2024: A hostel of nightmares for Bangladeshi migrants allegedly trafficked by criminal syndicate for forced labour in Malaysia (and Daily Star Op Ed)

Daily Star April 6th 2024: A hostel of nightmares for Bangladeshi migrants allegedly trafficked by criminal syndicate for forced labour in Malaysia (and Daily Star Op Ed)

Daily Star April 6th 2024: A hostel of nightmares for Bangladeshi migrants allegedly trafficked by criminal syndicate for forced labour in Malaysia (and Daily Star Op Ed)

At least 100 Bangladeshi workers ‘confined’ there after being deceived by Malaysian company 

Porimol Palma

The dream of a better life in Malaysia has turned into a nightmare for around 100 Bangladeshi migrant workers, each of whom had taken loans of around Tk 5 lakh to reach the country.

Once there, they were thrown into a squalid hostel in Sepang district in the southern part of the Malaysian state of Selangor.

Crammed together, 20-25 men share a single room, with limited access to even basic necessities like food. Their pleas for work and wages went unanswered, leaving them drowning in debt with no way out.

This crushing despair was only intensified by the sudden death of fellow worker Shafiqul Islam, who suffered a stroke on February 29.

Al-Amin (not his real name), 23, on March 20 told this correspondent, “Shafiqul and I were roommates. Each of us had borrowed large sums of money to come to Malaysia. However, upon our arrival, we quickly discovered that we had been deceived.

“Like the rest of us, he [Shafiqul] was constantly anxious. We are uncertain about how we will manage to repay the loans.”

He claims they had only received a meagre 200 Malaysian Ringgit (Tk 5,000) for food in the past seven months. “It is an attempt to just provide us with the bare minimum so that we don’t complain to the labour department.”

Jobless in Malaysia: 4 Bangladeshi migrants file police reports

Al-Amin added that around 300 workers arrived in Malaysia to work for Petrazehra Berhad in October. But none of them were given jobs, granted work permits, or had their passports returned.

Around 200 of them managed to leave the hostel to seek employment or stay with friends.

The 100 who remain at the hostel sleep on the floor, mostly eat rice and lentils, and occasionally can afford eggs. Many of them have been falling ill, with no access to proper healthcare, they said.

“My blood pressure is often high. When a few of us visited the doctor two weeks ago, he only checked our pressure and gave us some medications,” said Al-Amin. He explained that the doctor could not do further check ups as they do not have passports or work permits.

He borrowed Tk 5 lakh for the job in Malaysia and took an additional Tk 60,000 from home to survive the past seven months.

Petrazehra Berhad, a Johor Baru-based Malaysian company, hired the Bangladeshi workers. As per the job contract, they were supposed to get RM 1,500 (Tk 37,500) as basic salary. The brokers who mediated even promised the workers they would earn Tk 60-70 thousand a month.

The Bangladesh High Commission in Malaysia wrote a letter to the expatriates’ welfare ministry in February saying that 14 recruiting agencies got approvals for sending 1,500 workers for Petrazehra Berhad, and 725 of them travelled to Malaysia.

It requested the agencies not to send the remaining 775 workers to Malaysia until the 725 got jobs, implying they were yet to be employed.

According to the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training, over four lakh Bangladeshis have gone to Malaysia since late 2022, when the Southeast Asian country reopened the labour market for Bangladesh after four years.

The Malaysian labour market was earlier restricted for Bangladeshis following allegations of corruption and irregularities against a syndicate of 10 recruiting agents.

In 2022, initially 25 Bangladeshi agencies were allowed to recruit workers. The number was later extended to 100.

Activists and researchers estimate that out of approximately 800,000 Bangladeshis in Malaysia, 100,000 to 200,000 workers remain jobless, unpaid and in debt.

Billal Khan (pseudonym), another migrant in the group, said, “Petrazehra agents warned us not to complain to authorities. They kept promising us work permits and jobs, but nothing has materialised yet.”

He too had to manage Tk 5 lakh through loans and selling off his cattle and also borrow an additional Tk 70, 000 from relatives back home.

“Now, my family can’t pay back the loans nor take new ones to help me survive.”

Billal even secretly visited a friend half an hour away from the Sepang hostel in an attempt to gather some money. “I left the hostel despite the fear of being caught by the police, but I’m left with no other option.”

Those who managed to flee the hostel remain undocumented.

Even if they find jobs somewhere else, they will be under constant fear of being arrested as foreign workers can only work in the companies that hire them.

“We had come here for a better life, but are now crying for help. None but Allah would understand what we are going through,” said Billal.

About the Bangladeshi workers suffering in Malaysia, Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud on Thursday said his ministry has already asked the Bangladesh High Commission there to discuss the issues with the Malaysian authorities.

“We’ve discussed the labour issues with the Malaysian High Commission [in Dhaka] as well. I have a plan to hold discussions in this regard at the foreign and labour ministry levels,” he told The Daily Star during a briefing at the foreign ministry.

He, however, claimed the situation for the workers there right now is much better than what it was a year ago.

Daily Star Editorial 6th Apr 2024: What will happen to migrants abandoned in Malaysia?

Save exploited Bangladeshi workers, take action against those involved 


We are alarmed to learn details of the exploitation of around 100 Bangladeshi workers who migrated to Malaysia in pursuit of a better life. They were promised jobs with a basic salary of 1,500 Malaysian ringgit (Tk 37,500) with Petrazehra Berhad, a Johor Bahru-based company. However, once they reached their destination, having taken out huge loans or sold off properties at home, they found themselves thrust into a nightmarish existence devoid of dignity and hope.

Migrating to a life of unemployment

According to a report by this daily, around 300 workers were hired by Petrazehra Berhad in October last year, but none of them were given jobs or granted work permits. With their passports confiscated, the company placed—and essentially trapped—them in a seedy hostel in the Sepang district of Selangor. Crammed into overcrowded rooms, with up to 25 men sharing a single space, these workers are now forced to endure appalling living conditions, deprived of even the most basic necessities. Workers say they received around Tk 5,000 for food over the past few months, with no money left for healthcare or other necessities to survive, much less send back home to pay off their debts.

While 200 workers later managed to find employment elsewhere, or an alternative place to stay, at least a hundred still remain trapped in the rundown hostel. They cannot leave it for fear of arrests or forced deportation. Many of them have fallen sick but cannot seek medical treatment as they do not have passports or work permits. The situation is so dire that one of them, Shafiqul Islam, suffered a stroke and died on February 29.

Human traffickers must be stopped

This is not the first time that we have heard such gory details of workers’ sufferings in Malaysia. As per the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET), over 400,000 Bangladeshis have gone to Malaysia since late 2022 when the Southeast Asian country reopened the labour market for Bangladesh after four years. Researchers estimate that out of approximately 800,000 Bangladeshis in Malaysia, 100,000-200,000 workers remain jobless, unpaid and in debt. Yet, we have not seen any decisive action from Bangladeshi or Malaysian authorities to identify errant employers and rehabilitate the abandoned migrant workers.

Now that the abuse by Petrazehra Berhad has been documented, the Bangladesh government must urge Malaysian authorities to take swift action against the company. Workers must be paid what they were initially promised in their contracts and compensated for the mental and physical abuse they were subjected to all these months. The imminent closure of the Malaysian market should not get in the way of justice for exploited workers. The recruiting agency that had vouched for Petrazehra Berhad must also be held accountable, so that no other Bangladeshi has to face such horrific treatment in the hands of their employers anywhere in the world.

Background Reading:

26th March 2024: The Star – Freeze on foreign workers hiring quota in Malaysia stays for now, says HR Minister (with estimated 200,000+ surplus foreign workforce victims facing destitution and abuse)

25th March 2024: Bangladeshi workers (alleged victims of criminal syndicate trafficking Bangladeshi workers for forced labour in Malaysia) claim being coerced into withdrawing police and labour complaints

Daily Star 25th Mar: Malaysia employer framed Bangladeshi workers

Daily Star 24th Mar 2024: Jailed in Malaysia – 3 Bangladesh workers released

Editorial Prothomalo 24th Mar 2024: Malaysian labour market – Take action against the fraud syndicate

FMT 23rd March 2024: PSM calls on Sim to look into arrest of Bangladeshi workers

MALAYSIAKINI 23 Mar 2024: Stranded foreign workers (alleged victims of criminal syndicate trafficking Bangladeshi workers for forced labour in Malaysia) nabbed after labour complaints against employer

23rd March 2024 The Star: Half a million vulnerable and irregular foreign workers disappear from Malaysia’s migrant worker regularization programme as deadline looms in one week

23 Mar 2024 The Star: Verification rate lags as RTK 2.0 deadline approaches

22nd March 2024 Malay Mail: Home minister – Over RM9m in fines collected so far through migrant repatriation programme

22nd March 2024 Protomalo: Malaysian labour market set to be closed again due to syndication

20th March 2024: 93 duped/detained Bangladeshi migrant workers in Malaysia have jobs now, says immigration DG

20th Mar 2024 Business Standard: Bangladeshi workers’ plight in Malaysia: Coalition of migration orgs demand action against recruiting agency syndicate

19th March 2024: FMT – Plantation firms wary of ‘forced labour’ concerns in hiring 200,000 surplus foreign workers/criminal syndicate victims in Malaysia, says minister – indeed he’s right, who wants to take on destitute foreign workers often with US$4-7000 in debt?

17th March 2024: FMT – Malaysia’s treatment of migrant workers utterly shameful

New Age 16th Mar 2024: Bangladeshi government must mend issues to keep Malaysia job market open

15th March 2024 SCMP: Malaysians deride minister’s idea to rebrand palm oil workers as ‘specialised harvesters’

14th March 2024: The Star – Opinion: When work in Malaysia is a con – the criminal syndicate trafficking Bangladeshis for forced labour in Malaysia

FMT 13th March 2024: Bangladeshi migrants file police reports after falling victim to job scam/criminal syndicate trafficking workers from Bangladesh for forced labour in Malaysia

12th March 2024: SCMP – Malaysia to slash migrant workforce amid intolerance, job scam crisis involving Bangladeshi labourers

FMT 11th Mar 2024: Duped migrant jobseekers, victims of alleged criminal syndicate trafficking Bangaldeshi workers to Malaysia for forced labour, face mental health issues, says Malaysian ex-MP

Daily Star Editorial 10th March 2024: Migrating to a life of unemployment

Daily Star 10th Mar 2024: Distressed in Malaysia – Thousands of Bangladeshi migrants jobless, unpaid or underpaid 

9th March 2024: Malay Mail – Activists warn rushed 31st March visa deadline in Malaysia could force firms to source foreign workers unethically (includes my commentary on the abrupt policy change)

9th Mar 2024 The Star: No extension of May 31 foreign worker deadline

NST 9th Mar 2024: Keep recruitment agencies in a list rather than shutting them down, govt told   

See also NST 9th Mar 2024: Sourcing migrant workers takes time, ‘not like buying cattle’, employer groups tell govt

NST 8th Mar 2024: Eliminate middlemen from migrant worker recruitment process, govt told

Star 8th Mar 2024: May 31 deadline for foreign workers recruitment under recalibration programme remains, says Saifuddin

Malay Mail 8th Mar 2024: Saifuddin Nasution: No more agents for Bangladeshi worker recruitment

6th Mar 2024: Malaysian government halts foreign worker entry into the country from 31st May 2024 (final calling visa/VDN approval issuance deadline 31st March 2024) as migrant worker management crisis worsens and victims of gross exploitation, unemployment and destitution rise significantly

6th March 2024: Business Times –Sudden change in foreign worker policy by Malaysian government leaves industry in limbo

6th Mar 2024 Edge: Foreign worker intake deadline changes will leave manufacturers in the lurch, says FMM

6th Mar 2024 FMT: Industry players shocked by foreign worker policy change, says FMM

Mar 5 2024: NCCIM urges govt to review unused foreign worker quota deadline

4th March 2024 URGENT call for donations/support: joining forces with HOPE SELANGOR to fill gap in providing humanitarian aid and assistance to victims of criminal syndicate trafficking Bangladeshi workers into forced labour in Malaysia

Mar 3rd 2024: Concern on repatriation of potential trafficking and forced labour/abuse victims under Malaysian Migrant Worker Repatriation Programme Commencing 1st March 2024 (Statement by Andy Hall, Independent Migrant Worker Rights Specialist)

FMT 3rd Mar 2024: Ensure ‘crooks’ do not gain from repatriation programme, says activist

Mar 2nd 2024 The Star: A chance for illegals to go home

Mar 2nd 2024 The Star: Sarawak immigration extends RTK2.0 until June

Mar 1st 2024 FMT: 600,000 foreign workers urged to take easy exit home

Mar 1st 2024 The Star: Use repatriation programme to return home, 600,000 illegals told

Feb 28th 2024 The Star: New programme lets migrants off the hook without being prosecuted

Feb 25th 2024 The Star: Businesses want foreign worker hiring freeze lifted

Jan 31st 2024 NST: Govt to implement Migrant Repatriation Programme starting March

Jan 31st 2024 The Edge: Cabinet agrees to extend freeze on hiring of foreign workers, says home minister 

31st Jan 2024 FMT: Migrant repatriation programme set for March 1

31st Jan 2024 The Star: Migration Repatriation Programme to commence on March 1, says Home Ministry

FMT 6th Jan 2024: 171 duped migrant workers deserve compensation, govt told (includes my full statement)

5th Jan 2024: New Strait Times – MCA: Don’t just fine employers, hold ministry accountable as well for unemployed foreign workers

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

30th Dec 2023: New Strait Times – Recruitment agencies accused of deception as Bangladeshi victims speak out on exploitation and fear

29th Dec 2023: Malay Mail – Set up probe on exploitation of migrant workers and new ministry to manage their affairs, Suhakam tells Putrajaya

28th Dec 2023: FMT – Malaysia has entered ‘slave labour’ territory, says ex-MP – Charles Santiago calls for specific set-ups to manage migrant workers 

27th Dec 2023: New Strait Times – MTUC demand govt, MACC probe into corrupt recruitment practices of foreign workers

26th Dec 2023: FMT – High recruitment fees make greedy agents bring in workers, says group

25th Dec 2023: FMT – Probe recruitment agents, MACC told after arrest of Bangladeshis

22nd Nov 2023: MALAYSIAKINI – Full probe of migrant worker syndicate, Malaysian HR Minister Sivakumar says

9th Nov 2023: Malaysia – The State of the Nation: Flaws of foreign worker system laid bare in declassified report

30th Oct 2023: FMT: Andy Hall refers stranded Bangladeshi workers’ plight in Malaysia to UN Human Rights Council

23rd Oct 2023: RESPONSE FROM THE MINISTRY OF HUMAN RESOURCES IN REGARDS TO AN ARTICLE BY MR. ANDY HALL/HR Minister – strict actions against employers who fail to comply with Malaysia’s labour and immigration laws

20th Oct 2023 Malaysiakini: Long-awaited foreign worker management report declassified in Malaysia (my comments added)

19th Oct 2023: Malaysia facing huge excess of 1/4 million migrant laborers

21st Sep 2023: Malaysian government has 15 source countries for foreign workers – Comments by Andy Hall

20th Sep 2023: Rate of abused Bangladeshi workers’ entry into Malaysia worrying, says migrant rights activist Andy Hall

12th July 2023: excellent final offering from a 4 part account of atypical modern-day slavery, forced labour and abuse perpetrated against a group of migrant workers from Bangladesh in Malaysia, written concisely and passionately by former MP from Malaysia Charles Santiago

Aljazeera News TV 10th July 2023 – Migrants in Malaysia: Hundreds left stranded in recruitment scam

Reuters 11th Apr 2023: In Malaysia, migrants say they are in limbo after promised jobs fall through

25th April 2023 Sarawak Post: Malaysia And Modern Slavery – ‘PM Must Take Control’

23rd April 2023: REUTERS: Malaysia probes cases of migrant workers left jobless, without passports (with background summary and articles included in my blog post)

17th April 2023 Daily Star: Approval For Labour Recruitment – Malaysia’s transparency questioned by Bangladesh

FMT 13th April 2023: Stranded Bangladeshis endure ‘hell’ in Malaysia – The group of 35 now wants to go home after being left without jobs for months

11th Mar 2023 MALAYSIAKINI: Malaysian HR Minister Sivakumar – Zero checks for migrant quota approvals only until March 2023

13th Feb 2023: My Perspective published by FMT – ‘Time to address corruption in Malaysia’s migrant worker management’

10th Jan 2023: ‘Bangladeshi recruitment cartels’ grip must end’ – Govt now acting on billion-ringgit ‘human trafficking syndicates’

1st Oct 2022 Malay Mail: PM Anwar says Putrajaya to Ease Rules on Hiring Migrant Workers

7th July 2022 The Vibes: How Bestinet courted controversy over migrant worker recruitment – MACC’s raid on IT company once again casts spotlight on alleged hiring monopoly

June 2022 The Star: Human Traffickers made RM2 billion through syndicate smuggling in over 100,000 workers from Bangladesh

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top