By Annabelle Lee

There is a spike in the number of domestic workers trafficked into the country due to labour export bans by source countries, migrant rights group Tenaganita said.

(To read this article in Malaysiakini click here.)

Tenaganita, which has advocated for migrant labour rights since 1991, said the falsifying of age of workers to meet local legal requirements has also become a common practice.

A Malaysiakini and Tempo investigation published yesterday detailed the human trafficking network involving the movement of underaged Indonesian workers into Malaysia to work as domestic workers.

“Since last year we have seen a spike due to bans or freezes by source countries on sending domestic workers.

“The result is traffickers and syndicates working together to traffic girls through irregular channels, as demand is high in domestic sectors,” Tenaganita director Glorene Das told Malaysiakini.

Both Indonesia and the Philippines have stopped sending domestic workers to Malaysia to pressure Putrajaya to impose stricter protection of migrant workers from their countries.

Cambodia banned domestic workers to Malaysia in 2011 after complaints of abuse but the ban has been lifted.

Glorene said her NGO received 44 cases of trafficked domestic workers in 2016 alone and victims were not just from Indonesia.

“There are similar cases from Cambodia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Myanmar where women and girls were cheated and placed in forced labour situations,” she said.

She said labour supply agents in source and destination countries commonly falsified the ages of the workers as there was a lack of monitoring in this area.

“Even if such cases get reported, victims are further criminalised for their undocumented status while agents and syndicates get away with impunity.”

She added that this was the outcome of a lack of comprehensive immigration policies in Malaysia.

All foreign labour in Malaysia, including domestic workers, come under the purview of the Immigration Department, which is under the Home Ministry.

To solve this problem, Glorene said binding bilateral agreements between countries were needed to replace current memoranda of understanding (MoUs).

MoUs do not spell out protection mechanisms and function “very loosely” as terms of reference.

She also suggested enforcement agency personnel receive training in curbing human trafficking in Malaysia.

“Training should not be given only to the top or middle levels of enforcement agencies because awareness and information do not trickle down. Training must be for all,” Glorene said.