Stranded workers in KL seek refuge in embassy

MORE than 200 Bangladeshi migrant workers who claim their employers underpaid and abused them have sought refuge outside their country's embassy in Malaysia, an envoy said.

The Bangladeshi High Commission has turned a section of its mission into a temporary shelter for some of the 225 workers, but most of them have been sheltering on the pavement since early this month due to a lack of space inside.

A senior Bangladeshi envoy said: 'We are trying our best to get the workers and employers to reach a consensus, but it is difficult because both sides have different views on the matter.'

The envoy said there were about 350,000 Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia, engaged mainly in the plantation and manufacturing sectors.

Malaysia has an estimated 2.6 million legal and illegal foreign workers, mostly from Indonesia.

On Christmas Day, a charity group provided some chicken curry and rice for the hungry and pale-looking migrant workers.

Many of them had paid thousands of dollars to agents to find work in Malaysia, where they hoped to make their fortunes.

One 28-year-old Bangladeshi who gave his name as Hossain said he came to Malaysia in September.

'I paid the agent RM12,000 (S$5,200), and I sold my father's land and cows to gather the money,' he said.

'My agent got me a job with a company that manufactured computer hard disks. According to the contract, I should be paid RM800 a month, but they only gave me RM380.

'When I questioned them, they threatened me and refused to give me back my passport,' he said.

His tale is similar to that of others from Bangladesh who have been cheated in recent months.

Some had spent weeks at Malaysia's main airport before being sent home because no employer turned up.