Foreign workers celebrate Raya away from home to save up

General view of KL Sentral station in Kuala Lumpur June 3, 2019, on the eve of Hari Raya Aidilfitri. — Picture by Hari Anggara
General view of KL Sentral station in Kuala Lumpur June 3, 2019, on the eve of Hari Raya Aidilfitri. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, June 6 — While Aidilfitri is the time when urbanites return to their hometowns to celebrate with families and loved ones, many in the city have to make do with celebrating the festival away from home.

Among them are Muslim foreign workers who are unable to return home as they simply cannot afford the expensive airfares to return to their home countries during the festive period.

They know their main objective of being in the country is to earn and save as much as they can so that their families back home can have a better life.

To make matters worse, many of them are still at the mercy of their employers. They are forced to hand over their identification documents to their employers before the festive break for fear that their salaries may be deducted.

An Indian Muslim restaurant worker who wants to be known as Shabudeen, said this is the second year that he is celebrating Aidilfitri at the eatery as he was not able to save enough to buy the air ticket to India.

“I was working even on the first day of Hari Raya. I went to the mosque (Masjid India) and then to work because of the double pay. When I have enough money, I will be able to buy a return ticket back home,” said the 34-year-old who has a wife and child.

Returning home is a costly affair and that stopped security guard Yasral Anddal, 28, from going back to his hometown in Indonesia for the festival.

“This year, is the first time I did not return home as the airfare is too expensive. My wife and I performed prayers and then we had a meal at the mosque on the first day of Aidilfitri.

“Although I did not return home, the Aidilfitri atmosphere here is lively and cheerful. There are open houses to go to especially at mosques, and we were treated to delicious food ...there was no need for us to spend on cooking,” he said.

A construction worker who wanted to be known as Denpo, 30, from Myanmar, said he handed his  identification papers to his employer as he feared that his salary would be deducted.

“We were only given leave for two days, so, before the holidays, we have to hand over our passports to our employer. It will be returned to us when we get back to work tomorrow.

“They (company management) are afraid we will run away ... if we did not (hand over our passports), our salaries will be cut,” he said.

While he did not celebrate Aidilfitri, the Myanmar was happy to wander in the city with friends during the two-day break.

Meanwhile, a Bernama check at tourist attractions such as Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC), Pasar Seni and Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, were flooded with foreign workers.

Many of them took advantage of the festive break to hang out at their favourite spots around the nation’s capital.

While the foreigners were visible because of their large presence, they posed no harm.

However, bank security guard Siti Ramlah Ibrahim, 45, said their presence especially near ATM machines was disconcerting.

“They prefer to sit on the floor at the ATM area because the air-conditioning. But I have to tell them several times to leave as they litter the place and are reluctant to throw them into the garbage bins.

“Some are unkempt and also have bad body odour. I ticked them off and tell them to leave but the stubborn ones will still return,” said Siti Ramlah. — Bernama

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