Malaysia downgraded in US trafficking report; to review foreign labour policies


After being downgraded in a recent US human trafficking report, Malaysia announced it will examine recruitment fees charged to workers and review its agreements with the home countries of migrant workers.

The Southeast Asian nation was ranked in ‘Tier 3’ last week in the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.

The report said forced labour is the predominant human trafficking crime in the country.

The US had previously imposed sanctions on Malaysian companies citing the suspected presence of forced labour including abusive working and living conditions.

Malaysia’s Human Resources Ministry said it viewed the issues raised in the TIP report seriously.

“The government will continue to give attention to challenges in addressing forced labour issues, especially those involving foreign workers, and will continue to implement various improvements to existing initiatives,” minister Saravanan Murugan said in a statement on Monday.

The ministry has received 4,636 complaints from workers between May and July 04 via a new mobile app, and had taken action in 3,502 cases, including investigating allegations of forced labour, he said.

Malaysia depends on about two million documented migrant workers from countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and India to make everything from palm oil to rubber gloves.

Saravanan said the ministry would review the levies imposed by private recruitment agents and check whether there were any hidden charges that might lead to risks of exploitation and debt bondage.

“The Ministry will also review the memorandum of understanding that has been and will be signed with the source countries in particular to strengthen the element of protection of worker’s rights and, at the same time, not burden employers,” he said.

A national action plan on forced labour and child labour is also expected to be finalised in the fourth quarter, Saravanan added.

Malaysia’s state-funded National Human Rights Commission in a statement said the government had taken some initiatives to address human trafficking, but more transparency, law enforcement capacity and stronger labour laws were still needed. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)