Victims of forced labour practices, human trafficking in S’wak ‘sold’ from one agent to another, activist alleges

Peter John Jaban (file photo)

By DayakDaily Team

KUCHING, March 29: Victims of forced labour practices and human trafficking in Sarawak are ‘sold’ from one agent to another while some end up working in terrible conditions, alleges Global Human Rights Federation (GHRF) deputy president Peter John Jaban.

Peter John held that many of the victims end up working on construction sites, plantations and in coffee shops and private homes where they are not given the same standard of care that Sarawakian employees are expecting.

“There is no health and safety training or equipment provided. Coffeeshop workers are not expected to have food handling safety certificates, for example, which puts our food sector at risk.

“What is worse, the agents will be paid up front for their services. I have met many victims who do not receive any salary for up to five months as they pay off the agents’ fees.

“Their passports are taken away and they are forced to stay under threat of being reported to the authorities,” he said in a statement today.

He also advised employers not to accept approaches from agents who are bringing in workers under a social visit pass.

He warned that there are stiff penalties for employing undocumented labour, with Section 55B(1) of the Immigration Act 1959/63 providing for fines of up to RM50,000 or imprisonment up to 12 months or both, for every undocumented immigrant employed.

“Withholding an employee’s passport and salary is, in fact, a contravention of international standards on human trafficking,” he added.

He pointed out that while Sarawak relies heavily on migrant labour across multiple sectors, Sarawak Government must also ensure proper systems to bring people in safely and securely so everyone can benefit.

“The way we treat our workers is a reflection of our society. We must ensure that they are paid fair wages and provided with proper conditions, otherwise our reputation will be ruined.

“Migrant labour should not be seen as a way to undercut Sarawakian employment regulations, making the agents richer and leaving the workers in poverty,” he said. – DayakDaily