Category Archives: Uncategorized

Kantipur News (Nepal) 30th May 2023: Year-round labour from Nepal to pay off loan to Malaysia – debt bondage, poor work conditions – more of the same 

(Google translate of Kantipur argument below)

In debt, stranded, with irregular or no work at the moment – more tragic stories from Kantipur media (Nepal) of South Asian (Nepali) laborers in debt bondage/forced labour in abusive working conditions in Malaysia.

For recruitment costs are at a record high these days for workers from Nepal going to Malaysia, often 3-4 times more than in the past (US$3,000 per pax compared to the previous US$600-1300 prior to the start of the Anwar government).

The situation of debt bondage and forced labour in Malaysia seems to be worsening generally as concerns exorbitant recruitment fees.

Kantipur News: Year-round labor to pay off loan to Malaysia

Hom Karki

Fees up to 340,000NPR were collected from workers – Neither regular work nor timely salary

The company takes the contracted cargo to the port only on the day it arrives. After the cargo arrives, you have to work continuously for 19-20 hours a day. You can’t say sunshine and rain.’

Kathmandu – Keshav Kumar Karn from Janakpur who has reached Malaysia is increasing day by day. He went to Malaysia after taking a loan from a moneylender, and the increasing interest is bothering him day and night. So they are ready to work day and night to get rid of debt as soon as possible.

However, employers in Malaysia neither provide regular work nor pay on time. When there is no regular work, he spends most of his time sleeping.

In Malaysia, 20 Nepalese workers were kept in a state of isolation in a room. They have been sent to work in Klang Port, Malaysia through Creative Placement Services and are unemployed.

Sent to work three times in three months. The rest of the time is kept lying on the ground. You have to stay inside the room. Remembering the house loan burns the heart. After spending the whole day at leisure, the mind is restless,’ said Karna. His employer is Sun Logistics Services. Sun has won the contract for Klang Port, a major port in Malaysia. Klang Port, which ships rubber and tin to more than 100 countries, lies between Penang and Singapore. The port is about 37 km from the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, handling cargo arriving every hour.

Even though there was a zero-cost arrangement to go to Malaysia, Karna paid Rs 340,000 to go to work hard at the international trading post. The employer was set to pay a minimum monthly salary of 1,500 ringgit. Even if the same salary is paid regularly, he has to work hard for at least one year to collect the fees paid to go to Malaysia. However, Karn, who arrived in Malaysia on March 13, has received only 1,200 ringgit for food from the company in three months.

It costs 500 ringgit a month just to eat here. Even if you send only 1,000 ringgit to your home after 1,500 hands, it takes a year to collect the investment,” he said. “It’s like coming to give labor to the Malaysian government for a year.” There are 20 more Nepalis with Karna. They were all sent by Creative Placement Services. “Though we were sent by Creative, the money transaction was done with Ramesh Khadka of Alkasar Manpower. Our agent is Alkasar Manpower,” he said. “The company takes the contracted cargo to the port only on the day it arrives. After the cargo arrives, you have to work continuously for 19-20 hours a day. You can’t say sun-rain.’

Gopal Khatri’s team from Dang, who arrived ahead of them on December 30, live upstairs from the Karnas. This team also did not get regular work. 20-20 workers came to the company many times. Out of that, 34 of us are kept in one building,” said Khatri, adding, “There are only 8-10 days of work in a month. Our team has been given a minimum salary of three months. But not for Karna’s team. Khatri said that he had to pay a fee of 310,000 rupees when he went to Malaysia. He said that they came under the condition of receiving a salary of 3500 ringgit. It is said that if you work 234 hours a month to get the minimum wage, you will get 1500. While doing normal duty for 26 days (two hundred and eight) hours in a month will get the minimum salary,” he said, ‘it is very difficult to work at the port. We are told to train for 5-6 months. Will there be training even for so many months?’

Jitendra Kumar Yadav of Saptari, who arrived in Malaysia after paying a fee of 348,000 rupees, said that even after the death of his four-year-old son, he could not return home. I don’t know where the gold company is. Even when we are paid, we are not given a receipt with the seal of the company,’ he said, ‘I was given only 750 ringgit when the other 1,500 came.’ According to Yadav, there is no insurance while working at the port. Cargo work is very risky. no insurance In case of illness, the worker must take medication himself. Only 5-6 times in a month it is time to work. Even if it is our turn, we do not specify how many hours we will work,” he said. “Dress and shoes worn on duty are also deducted from our salary. The transportation fee incurred while going to and coming from duty should also be paid from our own pocket.

According to Creative Placement, 100 workers have been sent to Klang Port. Sanjeev Niraula, the owner of Creative, claimed to have sent workers at zero cost. We have not collected money from any worker. “We don’t know who they paid,” he claimed. According to him, there is no salary dispute. “No one gets the salary for the first month after going to Malaysia. This is practice. After that, the salary is paid every month. 1,200 ringgit peski has been given to 20 people. They will get 3,000 for two months in the first week of June,” he said. “There will not be regular work at the port like in other places. There are only 15 days in a month. We told this clearly to the maid when we were leaving. Even if you work for 15 days, you will get full salary. He said that the problem of the hostel will be solved in a few days. Another hostel is being built near where the workers are kept. As soon as we get permission from water and electricity, it will be solved,” he said.

According to the policy of the Port Klang Authority, no exploitation of workers is acceptable. In the policy implemented by the authority, all service providers, constructors, vendors, suppliers must obey the laws and regulations of Malaysia. However, the authority has not taken any action against the companies that charge high fees and take workers and do not provide regular work. When asked about this from the General Manager of the Authority, K. Swaramaniyam, he promised that the Authority will investigate the matter.

‘Ballabal goes to work. After finishing the duty, you have to wait for the vehicle for three to four hours. Again the actual time we do is not charged to the card. Our problem is not reaching the company. Here, the minimum wage for such a difficult job is 1800 ringgit. If we are to be employed, we should be given the same. If not, they should be returned or changed to another company,” said Khatri. He said that the Nepalese embassy has also been informed about the problem.

FMT 25th May 2023: Migrant worker recruitment system in Malaysia stinks to high heaven

Migrant worker recruitment system stinks to high heavenIf this problem is not resolved once and for all, Malaysians will pay dearly.

See full article at

Well said here by FMT’s editor, a systemically broken system indeed….

PRESS RELEASE 16 May 2023 – UK’s seasonal agriculture visa scheme exposes migrant workers to serious risk of abuse, say rights experts

PRESS RELEASE 16 May 2023 (available online at

UK’s seasonal agriculture visa scheme exposes migrant workers to serious risk of abuse, say rights experts

Lee Thomas / Alamy Stock Photo

Migrant agricultural workers in the UK could face comparable risks to migrant labourers in the Gulf, advocacy groups and experts from the UK, Nepal and Bangladesh warned today.

Today sees the UK’s Farm to Fork summit, ahead of which government yesterday confirmed they will again be making 45,000 6 month long seasonal work visas available to the horticultural sector next year. Last week, in a joint letter to immigration minister Robert Jenrick, human rights NGOs and academics expressed concerns about continued abuses associated with the Seasonal Worker visa route, introduced in 2019 to address labour shortages in agriculture, which they said fails to meet international standards.

In 2023, 45,000 visas are available under the scheme, allowing workers to come to the UK for six months to carry out specific tasks in the horticulture sector. 

Whilst UK government and non-government experts have raised the alarm about the serious risks to workers on the scheme since 2018, 2022 saw a series of media investigations that revealed widespread abuse of migrant workers, including from Nepal, on British farms. This included workers left in severe debt having paid thousands of pounds in recruitment fees to secure jobs in the UK. In some cases this is likely to amount to debt bondage, where an individual is trapped in an abusive situation because of debt obligations. Workers also reported discrimination and being left without work, as well as poor working and living conditions, with one in four not having access to a working toilet and nearly two thirds not feeling safe in their accommodation.

James Lynch, co-director of FairSquare, a UK-based human rights group which has worked extensively on migrant labour abuse in the Gulf, said:

“Migrant workers have long been and will for the foreseeable future remain crucial to Britain’s agricultural sector. But the British government’s design and implementation of this visa scheme leaves them horribly exposed to abuse, in a way that increasingly bears comparison to our research on the Gulf. When responsibility for worker protection is delegated by government to the private sector and when workers lack the full freedom to change employers, this leaves them acutely vulnerable to abusive working and living conditions, with demands for the payment of extortionate and illegal recruitment fees routine.” 

Several of the letter’s signatories gave hard-hitting evidence to a House of Lords horticulture select committee inquiry last week, with Kate Roberts, head of policy at Focus on Labour Exploitation, describing the workings of the scheme as creating “a very risky situation”.

The British government’s position is that to protect migrant workers, it holds a small number of private recruitment firms – known as Scheme Operators – “responsible for managing the recruitment and placement of workers on UK farms, and ensuring their welfare in the UK”. The government cannot abdicate its responsibility for enforcing the rights of workers by delegating this to the private sector.  

The government places no restrictions on where these operators can recruit from. In 2022 the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration found that the Home Office “has not demonstrated that it has the mechanisms or capabilities in place to assure itself that scheme operators are meeting compliance requirements.”

In 2023, Scheme Operators unilaterally stopped recruiting from Nepal, in response to reports of worker abuse, with some beginning to recruit from Bangladesh. In its letter, the coalition of organisations and experts told the Home Office that its hands-off approach to regulating the scheme was short-sighted and unsustainable: “failure to address the underlying issues in the Scheme will simply lead to problems encountered in one country being replicated in another country, with another group of at-risk workers, and without avenues for redress in place for workers who have been left in debt by the scheme.”

Anurag Devkota of Lapsoj, a Nepali human rights organisation that advocates for the rights of migrant workers, said:

“For many years we have seen Nepali workers returning from the Gulf and Malaysia with terrible accounts of their working and living conditions, going unpaid, and all the while having to pay back debts they have taken on to migrate. It has been troubling to witness the same phenomena for workers coming back from the UK, where many expected a better experience.”

C R Abrar, Executive Director of the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit, in Bangladesh, said:

“With recruitment starting up in Bangladesh, the UK government must urgently use all the levers and tools at its disposal to better protect migrant workers, who we know very well will be vulnerable to exploitative fee charging and poor treatment in the workplace.”


The UK has relied on migrant workers to harvest fruit and vegetables for many decades. When the free movement of workers which came with the UK’s membership of the EU ended, growers immediately raised concerns about labour shortages. In response, the government introduced a scheme in 2018 to pilot a six-month visa for seasonal agricultural workers, with an initial quota of 2,500 visas. The scheme has grown by 2000% since 2019.

The signatories on the 11 May 2023 letter to Robert Jenrick are:

  • James Lynch, Co-director, FairSquare
  • Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX)
  • Adis Sehic, Policy and Research Officer, Work Rights Centre
  • Law and Policy Forum for Social Justice (Nepal)
  • Dr. Chowdhury Rafiqul Abrar, Executive Director, Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (Bangladesh)
  • Caitlin Boswell, Policy & Advocacy Manager, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
  • Victoria Marks, Director, Anti-Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Monitoring Unit (ATLEU)
  • Caroline Robinson, Advisor, Worker Support Centre
  • Dr Roxana Barbulescu, Associate Professor in Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds
  • Dr Natalie Sedacca, Assistant Professor in Employment Law, Durham University


FMT and Reuters Updates 16th May 2023: ‘No work, money or food’ – nightmare of Bangladeshi and Nepali migrant jobseekers in Malaysia/‘Malaysia says firms that hired stranded migrant workers to face action’ (and the cases keep coming, my brief commentary)

FMT 16th May 2023: No work, money or food – nightmare of migrant jobseekers – A group of 120 Bangladeshi migrant workers seek jobs and compensation after struggling to survive since arriving in Malaysia four months ago Available at

(Latest update 2pm 16th May 2023 FMT: Stranded Bangladeshi workers get jobs, thanks to labour dept – a ministry source says they have been taken in by a new firm which also pays their salaries according to the minimum wage available at

Seems to be so many such cases as these ones (copied in full below) occurring nowadays in Malaysia. This is just yet another case of stranded Bangladeshis (also Nepalis impacted in this specific case too).

Thousands of workers are in a desperate situation right now in Malaysia. In debt from exploitative recruitment practices of source country and Malaysian agents and employers, in abject poverty, without sufficient food or shelter, most obviously without work as their means of survival.

The promises to the workers of meaningful support, decent jobs and ensuring accountability and justice from the Malaysian government and employers, recruitment agencies and related embassies (Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal) remain generally unfulfilled here.

Many migrant workers, when they reach out for support for their desperate situation in Malaysia, are instead even unfairly arrested, detained and deported for becoming ‘irregular.’ Even accusations of workers being tortured whilst in detention facilities in the country, and for what wrong they have done in paying massive fees for non existent jobs in a foreign country?

Bogus Malaysian manpower agencies, bogus Malaysian employers, no jobs were ever even available for many of them when they were brought into the country at such high cost and/or the economic situation changed quickly too for some of their employers.

The Malaysian government’s migrant worker management systems at this time unfortunately remain fundamentally flawed, abusive, with limited rule of law, accountability or protection for such vulnerable workers as these.

It was very clear since late 2022 that the Malaysian migrant worker/employer quota system was slowly spinning out of control again. The protection safeguards (inspections of workplaces and accomodation, licensing of accomodation) meant to be involved in hiring migrant workers were rashly removed by Anwar’s government in the rush to bring in workers more easily into the country.

Corruption and impunity were sure to flourish in an environment where migration management was already so poor and irregular, and abused vulnerable worker numbers would surely increase, if the quota system was not managed well again. Special migrant worker hiring approvals were on the come back, fast tracked approvals in days or hours… now we see the result with stranded and abused worker cases rising.

Note however the article by Reuters yesterday, also copied below: ‘Reuters 15th May 2023: Malaysia says firms that hired stranded migrant workers to face action’ at

See also my recent post for much more background detail April 20th 2023: Malaysia probes cases of migrant workers left jobless, without passports (with background summary/articles included) at

Finally see also Commentary 15th May 2023: Anwar faces political tricky situation in tackling migrant labour issues – A widening corruption probe at the Human Resource Ministry is bringing to focus fundamental flaws in Malaysia’s foreign worker recruitment ecosystem. CNA’s Leslie Lopez looks at how this can be an opportunity for Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s government to bring a sledgehammer to the current system


No work, money or food – nightmare of migrant jobseekers

A group of 120 Bangladeshi migrant workers seek jobs and compensation after struggling to survive since arriving in Malaysia four months ago.

Reshna Reem Ganesan – 16 May 2023, 7:30am

About 120 Bangladeshi migrant workers gathered at the Bangladesh High Commission in Kuala Lumpur yesterday to ask for help to secure job placements and financial compensation from their employers.

PETALING JAYA: With no jobs, meagre accommodation, and mounting debt, hundreds of Bangladeshi migrant workers’ dreams of a better future in Malaysia have turned into a nightmare.

Despite their pleas for help, their plight remains unresolved, leaving them in distress.

Infuriated with their living conditions, around 120 Bangladeshi migrant workers gathered at the Bangladesh High Commission in the sweltering heat yesterday seeking a resolution.

A spokesman for the workers who wished to be identified as Abraham said workers had not been given jobs upon their arrival in February or paid any allowance in the last four months.

“They (Bangladeshi workers) came here and their accommodations are not appropriate. Even some of the accommodation don’t have proper sanitation (facilities). Their situation is very bad.

“No one can imagine the environment of their living area, no jobs, no money, and no food to survive,” he told FMT.

Abraham said as many as 600 Bangladeshi migrant workers came into the country through four different companies in the belief that they would get jobs as housekeepers in Genting Highlands. However, they are currently cooped up in a small hostel in Nilai, Seremban.

Some workers claimed to have received RM200 from a company representative, hardly enough to tide them through the four months they have been in Malaysia.

“(The workers) are frustrated and depressed because they took out loans from relatives, banks and sold land to come here,” said Abraham, adding that their sacrifice seemed to have been for nothing.

He said the workers also had to pay exorbitant recruitment fees ranging from RM20,000 to RM25,000.

Abraham said the workers voiced their grievances to Bangladesh High Commission officials and asked for help to secure job placements and financial compensation from their employers.

Later in the day, Abraham said an employer from one of the companies met with an official at the high commission and agreed that they would arrange jobs for the workers and pay them one month’s salary within 10 days.

FMT has asked the Bangladesh High Commission for comment.

In April, the high commission said Putrajaya’s approval process for the recruitment of migrant workers lacked transparency, leading to many workers being left unemployed. It said the labour department holds responsibility to ensure the legal rights of all domestic and migrant workers.

Reuters reported that the labour department has promised to take action against recruitment agencies and companies found to have misused government quotas and licences for hiring migrant workers, leaving them stranded without jobs.


Reuters 15th May 2023: Malaysia says firms that hired stranded migrant workers to face action

Reuters Asia Pacific 2 minute read –

May 15, 20235:15 PM GMT+7

South Asian migrant workers stand on a bridge in Sepang
South Asian migrant workers stand on a bridge in Sepang, Malaysia May 2, 2023. REUTERS/Hasnoor Hussain/File Photo

KUALA LUMPUR, May 15 (Reuters) – Malaysia said on Monday it would sanction firms and strip away licences from recruitment agencies involved in hiring migrant workers who later found themselves stranded without jobs in the country.

Reuters reported last week that hundreds of South Asian migrants, mostly from Bangladesh and Nepal, had been left in limbo after arriving in Malaysia, where they were told that jobs promised to them in exchange for steep recruitment fees were no longer available. Malaysia announced a probe last month.

The plight of the migrants – many of whom say they have not been paid salaries for months – comes amid concerns over workplace abuses in Malaysia, with several companies facing U.S. bans for forced labour in recent years.

In response to Reuters’ queries, Malaysia’s Labour Department vowed to take action against recruitment agencies and companies found to have misused government quotas and licences for hiring migrant workers.

The department said in an emailed statement it would conduct a thorough investigation, and would not compromise on any unlawful activities that could “lead to any form of forced labour”.

The department said it had moved some of the stranded workers to government-registered quarters, and compelled some companies to pay for their accommodation and salaries.

It did not say how many workers in a similar plight it had identified, or how many firms or agencies it was investigating.

The department also denied reports that two Nepali citizens had died by suicide at a workers’ accommodation facility.

It cited police investigations that determined only one death – that of a Nepali recruitment agent, who had travelled to Malaysia to oversee the cases of workers stranded.

The police would conduct a further probe into the death, the department said.

Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi and Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Alex Richardson

Reuters 12th May 2023: Malaysian palm oil firms say they are not hiring from Bangladesh over recruitment concerns

Reuters 12th May 2023: Malaysian palm oil firms say they are not hiring from Bangladesh over recruitment concerns

Original article –

Reuters News
12-May-2023 04:32:20 PM
By Mei Mei Chu and A. Ananthalakshmi

KUALA LUMPUR, May 12 (Reuters) – Some of Malaysia’s largest palm oil producers are not hiring workers from Bangladesh because of concerns over exploitative practices during recruitment, companies and labour consultants say.

Planters in the world’s second-largest palm oil producer have in recent years stepped up efforts to implement ethical recruitment processes and revamp labour standards after the United States banned imports from two companies over allegations of forced labour.

Migrant workers, especially from Indonesia, India, Bangladesh and Nepal, make up about 80% of the workforce on Malaysia’s labour-reliant estates.

The Malaysian government suspended all hiring from Bangladesh in 2018 after allegations of corruption in the process. Despite a new labour agreement between the two countries coming into force last year, three plantation companies say their firms have not resumed hiring Bangladeshi workers.

“The main reason was due to a high rate of abscondment among the Bangladesh workers as they were not aware that they were going to work in plantation estates,” IOI Plantation IOIB.KL, which has not recruited from Bangladesh since 2018, said in an emailed response to Reuters.

A senior executive with another company cited a lack of transparency in the recruitment process and high recruitment fees among workers from Bangladesh.

Sime Darby Plantation SIPL.KL, the world’s largest palm oil producer, said it stopped hiring from Bangladesh in 2016. That year, the company also introduced changes aimed at implementing a “zero recruitment fee policy”.

The International Labour Organisation ranks deception and debt bondage stemming from large recruitment fees among its indicators of “forced labour”.

Hundreds of workers from South Asia have recently arrived in Malaysia without jobs despite being promised employment and after paying thousands of dollars in recruitment fees. Malaysia has begun investigations.

Malaysia’s Human Resources Ministry and the Bangladeshi embassy in Kuala Lumpur did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The embassy last month called for more transparency by Malaysia to prevent citizens from being cheated out of jobs.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an industry watchdog based in Malaysia, said proposed legislation in the European Union to prohibit the import and sales of products made with forced labour have prompted the palm oil industry to further address human rights in their operations.

“The industry in general is being called to greater degrees of sustainability, transparency and accountability, with external stakeholders – from regulators to financial institutions, investors and consumers – prompting this shift,” RSPO chief executive officer Joseph D’Cruz said.

Reuters 11th May 2023: In Malaysia, migrants say they are in limbo after promised jobs fall through

South Asian migrant workers stand on a bridge in Sepang, Malaysia May 2, 2023. REUTERS/Hasnoor Hussain.

Reuters 11th May 2023: In Malaysia, migrants say they are in limbo after promised jobs fall through

By A. Ananthalakshmi and Rozanna Latiff.

Article originally posted by Reuters on May 11 2023.

Link –

KUALA LUMPUR, May 11 (Reuters) – Stranded without work for months, hundreds of South Asian migrants in Malaysia say they are losing hope after failing to find jobs promised to them by recruitment agents in exchange for thousands of dollars in fees.

At a students’ dormitory about 40 km (25 miles) from the capital, Kuala Lumpur, about 500 migrants – mostly young men from Nepal and Bangladesh who had arrived in Malaysia since December – spend their days in crowded rooms or at an open-air cafeteria.

They say they arrived in the country on a three-month work visa that was meant to be upgraded to a work permit, but never was. Because their legal status is unclear, they are afraid to leave the premises, the workers told Reuters at the facility where they are staying.

Many say recruitment agents took their passports and continue to promise them jobs.

“We are all depressed and helpless. We have already paid a huge amount for the job. How can I pay that back if I do not have a job?” a Nepali migrant at the dormitory told Reuters.

Andy Hall Commentary:

Myself and colleagues keep pushing to expose this awful situation of high-risk modern slavery that can lead to forced labour happening now in Malaysia.

1000s of South Asian workers are cheated, indebted and suffering due to unethical recruitment and unfair treatment both in source countries like Bangladesh and Nepal, and a sad situation when arriving in Malaysia.

April 20th 2023: Malaysia probes cases of migrant workers left jobless, without passports (with background summary/articles included)

Recent developments outlined in this Reuters article below, with 1,000s if not 10,000s of foreign workers being left stranded, destitute and in conditions of acute modern slavery on entering Malaysia is not at all surprising. Indeed, it was highly predictable.

The situation for foreign workers entering Malaysia has significantly worsened in the past six months. 

Recruitment related fees and costs paid by impoverished foreign workers to secure entry and work in Malaysia has doubled or tripled since late 2022. For Bangladeshi workers, costs are now well above US$5, 000 per person again. Whilst for Burmese and Nepalese workers, costs have soared in recent months to almost US$3, 000 or more, a record high level. 

Malaysia recently scrapped all compliance checks on prospective employers of migrant workers seeking additional foreign worker quotas, in its rush to ensure an increase in the number of workers coming into the country under the new Anwar government’s announced Relaxation of Employment of Foreign Workers Plan. This has led to a proliferation of bogus employers, abusive Malaysian agents and corrupt officials working together to exploit prospective foreign workers desperate for work in Malaysia. 

In the past week, Malaysia’s Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has also just announced several investigations and arrests relating to foreign worker management and foreign worker quota issuance issues in Malaysia, see below articles in summary. 

I recently wrote an Opinion piece on these developments – see ‘Time to address corruption in Malaysia’s migrant worker management’ and other related articles listed below.


Reuters April 20, 2023 2:40 PM

Malaysia probes cases of migrant workers left jobless, without passports

By A. Ananthalakshmi and Rozanna Latiff

Migrant workers gather at the compound of their dormitory for a document check, during a joint operation by the Department of Labour and several other Malaysian government agencies on workers’ living condition and other criteria of forced labour and human trafficking, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 17, 2022. REUTERS/Hasnoor Hussain

KUALA LUMPUR, April 20 (Reuters) – Malaysia has launched an investigation to uncover how hundreds of migrant workers arrived from South Asia without jobs, despite having paid steep fees to get employment, officials and rights groups said.

The issue revives concerns over labour abuses in Malaysia, a key manufacturing hub at the heart of the global supply chain that has faced several accusations in recent years over exploitation of workers.

Hundreds of workers from Bangladesh and Nepal have arrived since December after paying up to 20,000 ringgit ($4,500) to middlemen to get employment, officials of two rights groups who interviewed dozens of the workers told Reuters.

Many took loans to pay recruitment fees, but are unable to start repaying them without jobs or salaries, the activists said, adding that on arrival, their passports had been taken away by recruitment agents.

“These workers are at high risk of forced labour and severe destitution,” said independent labour activist Andy Hall, whose team has been in contact with the migrant workers.

Their plight was worsened by factors such as debt bondage, poor living conditions, isolation and limited freedom of movement after their passports were confiscated, he added.

The International Labour Organisation ranks deception, along with debt bondage stemming from the large recruitment fee, and passport seizure among its indicators of ‘forced labour’.

The Malaysian government is investigating the matter, said Asri Rahman, the director general of its labour department, but declined to provide details until completion of the inquiry.

Last week, V. Sivakumar, the minister for human resources, visited a group of 226 Bangladeshi and Nepali workers who had been in the Southeast Asian country for 40 days without the jobs they had been promised.

He described as “appalling” the crowded accommodation of the workers, and vowed to find them jobs at the earliest, but did not identify the provider of the facilities.


The investigation comes as the five-month-old government of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim cracks down on corruption and looks to tackle labour abuse.

Two of Sivakumar’s aides were arrested by anti-graft authorities this month over an investigation into recruitment of foreign workers. He too was questioned, and has promised to co-operate.

Malaysia has faced accusations of forced labour in manufacturing and palm oil production over the years, including some by the United States, which banned imports from several of its firms for such practices.

Bangladesh – a key source of migrants for Malaysia – called for more transparency by Kuala Lumpur to prevent its citizens from being cheated of jobs.

“If the Malaysian government’s approval process for hiring foreign workers is transparent, not a single worker should be unemployed,” its High Commission, or embassy, in Malaysia said in a Facebook post on Saturday.

The high commission said it compelled an employer to provide jobs for some of the migrants, while still working to get jobs for the others.

A Bangladeshi official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters there were a “few hundred” of its citizens stuck in Malaysia without jobs.

The Nepal embassy said it was working to find employment for a group of 125 of its citizens who had been left similarly stranded, and had also received such complaints from others.

Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi and Rozanna Latiff; Additional reporting by Ruma Paul in Dhaka; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Background Articles on Current Malaysian Migration Debates/Worker Situation

Apr 20th2 officers at Malaysian mission in Bangladesh held in RM3.1m visa graft probe

Apr 19thMACC to possibly question political leader in HR Ministry probe (VIBES)

Apr 19thMalaysian HR Minister Sivakumar quizzed a second time by MACC (FMT) 

Apr 17thMinistry probing firm named in stranded Bangladeshis’ work visas (FMT)

Mar 21stOpinion – Political will needed to revamp intake of foreign workers in Malaysia (FMT)

Mar 18thApprovals for foreign workers suspended under further notice (FMT)

Mar 16th10 Bangladeshis held after ‘employer’ leaves them out in the cold (FMT)

Mar 3rd: HR Minister – Zero checks for migrant quota approvals only until March (Malaysiakini)

Feb 13th: My Opinion – Time to address corruption in Malaysia’s migrant worker management (FMT)

Feb 11th: Sub-agents, commissions, bribes and other woes of migrant workers in Malaysia (FMT)

Feb 9thHR minister to stop agencies from monopolising hiring foreign workers (Malay Mail)

Feb 8thGovt to allow hiring migrant workers without agents: PM Anwar (Vibes)

Feb 8thStop using agents to recruit foreign workers, says PM Anwar (FMT)

Jan 17thRelaxed rules for hiring migrants only for 5 sectors, says govt (FMT)

Jan 10th‘Bangladeshi recruitment cartels’ grip must end (Vibes)

Jan 10thGovt’s migrant recalibration scheme to continue till year-end (FMT)

Jan 10thApproval for foreign labour now takes only 3 days, says Saifuddin (FMT)

Jan 10thPM – Putrajaya eases rules on the hiring of foreign workers (Malay Mail)

Jan 10th: PM to ‘cleanse’ Malaysia’s foreign manpower hiring system by going digital (Malay Mail)

Financial Times 17th April 2023: Ikea cuts ties with security services supplier over labour policy breach in Malaysia

Financial Times 17th April 2023: Ikea cuts ties with security services supplier over labour policy breach

Original source:

Internal audit reveals Nepalese migrants who worked as guards in retailer’s Malaysian stores had paid to get jobs

Ikea’s investigation was launched after a campaigner reported workers from Nepal had paid fees as high as $1,000 to obtain jobs as security guards in Malaysia © Lim Huey Teng/Reuters

Oliver Telling in London

Ikea stores in Malaysia have severed ties with a labour provider after an internal investigation found there had been a breach of the furniture retailer’s own policies.

Many security guards in Ikea’s Malaysian stores had paid fees to secure jobs, according to the retailer’s investigations. The findings, unreported until now, come as leading western brands face growing scrutiny from regulators and investors over labour issues in their international operations.

Ikea’s investigation was launched after a campaigner reported workers from Nepal had paid fees as high as $1,000 to obtain jobs as security guards in Malaysia, according to communications seen by the Financial Times. The probe was led by Inter Ikea, which oversees the brand’s franchise stores, and Ikano Retail, which runs Ikea stores in Malaysia as well as Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Mexico.

Ikano, which is owned by the Kamprad family that founded Ikea, said the inquiry confirmed “many of the security guards working in our Malaysia business had paid recruitment fees”, contravening its code of conduct rules. The group said its probe had revealed “multiple layers of subagents involved in the process in rural villages”.

Campaigners say brokers and recruiters charging fees from workers looking for jobs is an endemic problem in many developing countries. Workers often take out loans to cover the cost. For multinational brands that rely on local agents, such problems in the supply chain are often a blind spot, say campaigners.

Debt bondage is recognised as an indicator of forced labour by the UN’s International Labour Organization, whose guidelines state workers should not be charged “any fees or related costs for their recruitment”.

Ikano said: “After many weeks of negotiation with our supplier, we were unable to resolve our concerns and have subsequently terminated our relationship.” The company declined to confirm its former supplier and the Financial Times was unable to contact it for comment.

Ikano said the incident had been reported to local authorities and the Nepalese embassy. Ikea, whose roughly 460 stores are owned by a sprawling network of franchisees globally, is the latest brand to be caught up in a controversy over recruitment fees.

Activists say Nepal’s numerous unlicensed hiring agencies are among the most exploitative when it comes to charging workers. Nepalese migrants around the world have reportedly fallen victim to the practice, including those working on UK farms and on construction sites for the Qatar World Cup.

Ikano said it had secured a new supplier that will recruit workers directly rather than using subcontractors, adding that it would conduct follow-up audits.

Additional reporting by Richard Milne