14 foreign workers forced to sleep on armchairs in single room

Workers sleep on double-decker beds in containers at the Central Labour Quarters in Dengkil.  — Pictures by Azinuddin Ghazali
Workers sleep on double-decker beds in containers at the Central Labour Quarters in Dengkil. — Pictures by Azinuddin Ghazali

KUALA LUMPUR, July 4 ― An employer here thinks it is fine for more than 10 of his female foreign workers to sleep on foldable plastic armchairs in cramped and foul conditions.

But he expects them to look prim and proper when they turn up for work as hostesses at his night club, East Club, just a floor below the women’s little room in the two-storey building in Pudu.

That employer, however, is not alone in thinking that foreign workers can and should live in the most spartan conditions.

The room in Jalan Pudu was not the only place where squalid living conditions were uncovered since the Immigration Department’s nationwide swoop on illegal immigrants started on Saturday.

The raids, launched after the application period for the enforcement card (E-kad) ended, had also exposed tales of employees being manipulated, cheated and abused.

Fourteen women in their 20s and 30s from China, Vietnam and Thailand lived in the dimly-lit room for four months.

All they had for furniture were the armchairs, two vanity tables and a shelf shared among all of them.

There were no windows, and ventilation was provided by a noisy air-conditioning unit.

“It is hard to believe this is where they slept after work,” an Immigration officer said.

Garbage, blankets and shoes were strewn about the place.

The armchairs were fitted with towel sheets to minimise discomfort during their sleep.

“Trust me, we have seen worse then this ... this is actually not that bad,” another officer said.

All 14 women had entered the country using social visit passes.

The manager of the nightclub, a Malaysian in his 40s, was arrested.

The second raid took place at the Central Labour Quarters (CLQ) in Dengkil, where migrant construction workers were put up in living quarters consisting of used freight containers.

Six or eight workers shared a single container with double-decker beds and one small fan.

Unfinished food was also brought into the dormitories for safekeeping, increasing the risk of pest infestation.

Stepping into the containers, the first things one would feel are the heat and foul smell caused by poor ventilation.

Reporters were not allowed to speak to those detained.

A source said the compound had four blocks of dormitories with the fourth under construction.

Vasuthevan said each block contained about 390 workers, bringing the total of workers placed in the dormitories to 1,176.

A total of 1,250 foreigners were screened during the seven hour spotchecks in Damansara Perdana, Jalan Pudu and Dengkil, Sepang.

Among them, 196, including 63 women, were arrested for not having valid travel documents.

Forty Immigration Department enforcement officers took part in the operations.

On Sunday, Malay Mail was given access to the Bukit Jalil Immigration Depot and discovered a significant number of detainees there claimed they were duped by their employers.

The detainees said they were ditched and left to fend for themselves after their employers cheated them of their permits and trust.

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