Malaysia to review recruitment fees, agreements after US trafficking report

FILE PHOTO: Foreign workers wait in line to be tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outside a clinic in Kajang, Malaysia October 26, 2020. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng/File Photo
Malaysia will examine recruitment fees charged to workers and review its agreements with the home countries of migrant workers, the Human Resources Ministry said, after the Southeast Asian nation was downgraded in a US human trafficking report.

The US State Department last week ranked Malaysia in 'Tier 3' in this year's Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report and said forced labour is the predominant human trafficking crime in the country.

Malaysia's Human Resources Ministry said it viewed the issues raised in the TIP report seriously.

"The government will continue to give attention to challenges in addressing forced labour issues, especially those involving foreign workers, and will continue to implement various improvements to existing initiatives," minister Saravanan Murugan said in a statement on Monday.

The ministry has received 4,636 complaints from workers between May and July 4 via a new mobile app, and had taken action in 3,502 cases, including investigating allegations of forced labour, he said.

Malaysia depends on about two million documented migrant workers from countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and India to make everything from palm oil to rubber gloves.

Saravanan said the ministry would review the levies imposed by private recruitment agents and check whether there were any hidden charges that might lead to risks of exploitation and debt bondage.

"The Ministry will also review the memorandum of understanding that has been and will be signed with the source countries in particular to strengthen the element of protection of worker's rights and, at the same time, not burden employers," he said.

A national action plan on forced labour and child labour is also expected to be finalised in the fourth quarter, Saravanan added.

Malaysia's state-funded National Human Rights Commission in a statement said the government had taken some initiatives to address human trafficking, but more transparency, law enforcement capacity and stronger labour laws were still needed.