Fearing deportation, axed Bangladeshi workers hide in jungles hoping for new permits

Foreign workers throng Kotaraya in Kuala Lumpur June 26, 2017. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Foreign workers throng Kotaraya in Kuala Lumpur June 26, 2017. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 13 — Migrant workers from Bangladesh who came to Malaysia for work that would give them a better life have instead taken to living in shacks in jungles and oil palm plantations to escape their employers and deportation.

Local news site Malaysiakini and Bangladeshi newspaper Kaler Kantho published today a report on a group of 16 migrant workers near Kuala Lumpur who fled to an oil palm grove near a highway last year after being terminated from their jobs.

“Back home, the cows in my house live in better conditions,” Al-Amin, a worker from Barisal in south central Bangladesh, was quoted as saying.

He and several other Bangladeshis living there claimed to have been fired for taking part in a workers’ protest after their employer, a printing plant in Kapar, Selangor deducted their pay for overcrowded lodgings — up to 20 people would share a room meant for four — and “loans” that were supposedly covered by their contract.

Those interviewed claimed after failed negotiation attempts between the Bangladesh High Commission and their employer, two of their peers were captured and deported without their due salaries, leading the others to flee for fear of the same fate.

Malaysiakini named the employer and said the company did not respond to calls for response to the exploitation allegations, but Malay Mail is refraining from following suit.

The report cited Bangladeshi High Commission official Mohd Muksed Ali saying that the company penalised employees for “offences” like talking on the phone, smoking cigarettes and not wearing the company sanctioned shoes, ultimately they were to be deported for “breaking company rules”.

Mannan Miah from Noakandi village, Kishoreganj in Bangladesh, said he paid some RM12,000 to a broker named Kamal Chandra Das but has nothing to show for it.

“My dreams have been devoured by brokers. Never mind helping my family, I am scared for my own life. I work hard all day, yet I sleep in the jungle,” he was quoted as saying.

Malaysiakini and Kaler Kantho recently reported some Bangladeshi workers claiming they were traded like slaves between firms and held in deplorable conditions. 

Since 2005, a total of 4,321 Bangladeshi workers have died in Malaysia, with the numbers growing over the years. Last year, 736 deaths were reported. Most of the deaths are reportedly due to heart attacks or strokes. Workers are aged between 18 to 32 years.

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