Amnesty International slams Malaysia for failing to stop migrant workers' exploitation

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Kuala Lumpur, Mar. 24 (ANI): Amnesty International has urged the Malaysian Government to protect migrant workers from getting exploited in the country, where they come to "escape poverty and provide for their families."

"Migrant workers come to Malaysia to escape poverty and to provide for their families. Once they arrive, however, many workers toil in conditions that amount to labour exploitation," The Star Online quoted Amnesty International as saying in a report.

"The government of Malaysia has a responsibility to prevent abuses, which can include exploitation, forced labour, and trafficking in persons. Too often, the state fails to do so."

"Much of Malaysia's approach to migration is effectively to criminalise it, even though the country could not function without migrant labour," it added.

The report titled, "Trapped - The Exploitation of Migrant Workers in Malaysia," points out that Malaysia depends heavily on foreign labourers, who are a fifth of the country's work force, but lower than promised wages, unsafe working conditions, and arbitrary arrests and extortion amount to exploitation of labours.

However, Malaysia's Human Resources Minister Dr S. Subramaniam denied allegation that foreign workers faced discrimination.

"The system of bringing in foreign workers is a well established legal system. It is fair to everybody. We offer the same kind of protection to foreigners (as to locals). We don't protect employers who exploit workers," he said.

The London based rights group interviewed 200 workers - both legal and illegal - and found that some workers are also held at their workplace by threat or violence.

Three women from Myanmar, working as tailors, recounted how their employers called gangsters to intimidate and force them to work throughout the night.

About two million foreigners work in Malaysia legally, and an estimated one million more illegally.

Most come from Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam and fill jobs at construction sites, factories, restaurants, households and palm oil plantations. (ANI)

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