Foreign workers burdened with debt to work in Malaysia

24 Dec 2023 11:47am

SHAH ALAM - Despite the determination of foreigners to earn a living in Malaysia, many may not realise that they are actually facing various challenges.

Due to these problems, some of them experience stress leading to the potential for self-harm, violence or criminal acts.

One prevalent issue among foreign workers was the burden of debt.

North-South Initiative (NSI) Executive Director Adrian Pereira highlighted that these workers often resort to instant loans from licensed organisations, loan sharks (ah long), or agents in their home countries to fulfill their dream of working in Malaysia.

The loans, ranging from tens of thousands of ringgits, must be repaid within a short period to avoid additional charges.

"Foreign workers from Bangladesh have to pay as much as RM25,000 while workers from Nepal pay at least RM12,000 to enable them to work here.

"Extreme debt burden with employment agents has caused them to find more income to enable themselves to cover the cost of living in Malaysia and give money to their families," he told Sinar.

The migrant activist said foreign workers often face threats to harm their family members from money lending agencies if they were late in repaying debts.

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Adrian said for the safety of their families, these workers were willing to sacrifice rest and holidays, working overtime to quickly pay off loans.

"In addition, debt from the cost of recruitment fees is part of the forced labour situation," he said.

He added that the work permit fraud syndicate was also the cause of the group facing mental problems.

He said, most foreign workers have gone through the process of applying to work in Malaysia legally, but they have been cheated by work permit syndicates.

He explained that it was the situation that caused them to be in fear and always run away from the authorities for fear of being caught and then sent back to their home country.

When asked to comment on stress leading to injuries, Adrian said that due to numerous priorities, foreign workers' emotions could easily be mentally disturbed, leading to self-harm or harm those around them.

"There are also foreign workers who act to take fake liquor just to escape from thinking about worldly matters.

"This resulted in them acting out of control until fights broke out among migrants," he said.

Adrian said most migrants bought fake liquor at a cheaper price and contained substances that could be harmful to health and can affect brain function immediately.

"These people have faced so many problems starting from society's perception, work, family and so on.

"The situation causes them to have no space to think about their own health. Therefore, these foreign workers choose to drink fake alcohol just to forget for a while the problems they have endured.

"The uncontrollable intake of (fake alcohol) has caused them to lose their lives and also resulted in fights among migrants who live together," he said.

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