Tenaganita’s AntiHuman Trafficking program started with the Migrant Rights Protection Act in 1993. After years of experience in the field of documenting and advocating for equitable and just policy measures for migrants and trafficked persons, Tenaganita has come to be recognized as one of the leading NGOs in the field of antihuman trafficking in Malaysia today.
The demand for migrant labour in Malaysia has led to the dramatic rise in incidences of human trafficking, following the rapid economic and development boom the nation experienced over the past several decades. Lured with promises of stable, well paying employment in Malaysia, hundreds of thousands of workers from all over South and Southeast Asia are tricked or forced into falsely presented schemes designed to rob them of their money and property and place them at the mercy of ruthlessly exploitative employers.
Trafficked persons typically come from countries with comparatively lower levels of development such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Upon arrival, trafficked persons are usually forced into labour-intensive industries where workers can be easily exploited, such as fisheries, construction, manufacturing and plantations for male victims while domestic work and the illegal sex trade are primarily relegated to female victims.
Tenaganita’s anti trafficking in persons program encompasses the following:
PREVENTION. INTERVENTION. RECOVERY
As Malaysia is both a destination and transit country (and a growing source country to a lesser extent), the country experiences all forms of human trafficking. A list of these types is as follows:
The demand for child sex has grown tremendously, with many children bought and sold in human trafficking rings. While some countries have attempted to crack down on traffickers and offenders, the lack of enforcement in Malaysia has allowed the prevalence of child sex trafficking to rise. Most children from the region are brought in and forced into prostitution. It is easier for the traffickers to push children to watch xrated movies and provide kinky sex as lots of men are unable to fulfil their lustful urges with their wives or older women. The traffickers on the other hand say it is a long-term profit with children, who are impressionable enough to mould and control with fear, with the children later becoming Pimps for them.
“I was brought into Malaysia for work but I was raped and forced to provide sex for 35 – 40 customers per day. If I tried to refuse, I was beaten and my food was taken away,” a child of 15 and a victim of sex trafficking stated.
Many women are brought in on the pretext of a job but are held captive and forced into prostitution. As these women are from foreign nations and they are told that they will either have to pay upfront cash for their release (which they do not have) or service a certain number of customers to pay back their debt.
An important consideration is that the demand side of this billion dollar Industry in is a direct result of the growing tourism industry, migration patterns and local demand for the “services” provided in Malaysia.
The most widespread form of trafficking in Malaysia is Labour trafficking. Malaysia is also the biggest migrant labour destination country, receiving migrants from at least 16 different countries. Without a comprehensive policy or proper legislation in place, exploitation and violence are highly pervasive throughout the migration process, from start to finish.
What does the process of Human trafficking look like?
Human trafficking in Malaysia begins with the host country; in this case, the Malaysian government issues public statements expressing the need for migrant labour and extends invitations for large numbers of workers to live and work in its textile, manufacturing, palm oil or fishing industries.
Recruitment agencies, acting on behalf of the new demand, play a major role in the recruitment and management of migrant workers, oftentimes resorting to human trafficking in order to meet the labour demands of prospective employers.
Employers, after receiving their workers via the recruitment agencies, typically hold them for varying lengths of time as registered employees. However, contracts are rarely renewed despite continued employment beyond the length of the initial agreement, which results in a workforce of undocumented labour. Lacking work permits and control over their own identification documents, they are left at the mercy of their employer.
The result of this process is that millions of migrant workers are not paid wages, lack work contracts, work extremely long hours, live in terrible conditions, have their passports and documentation confiscated, are routinely cheated, and suffer physical and sexual abuse, often leading them to acute depression and death. Others are confined to their job sites, unable to leave. They often work for months without wages and are forced to work very long hours at the complete mercy of their employers.
Physical and emotional abuses are a common result of their powerlessness. To make matters worse, some sectors (such as domestic labour) have no legislation in place to protect them at all, or the legal mechanisms that are supposed to fulfil this role are utterly ineffectual. The burden of combating this ruthless scheme falls upon NGOs such as ourselves and research by groups like
Verite Report and Finn Watch, all of which document and expose the exploitation of migrant workers in Malaysia.
Have you asked yourself who catches the fish you enjoy eating, and under what conditions?
Young men from the ASEAN region are recruited and later sold to the captains of fishing vessels, where they face deplorable conditions. Abuses range from unpaid wages to beatings to murders in the South China Sea. Fishermen are confined to small quarters, often forced to toil for 3 years before they are released. If they fall ill there is no medication, and should they get worse, they are simply thrown overboard into the ocean to drown. Many of those who cannot escape are forced to take drugs so that they continue to work long hours.
To quote one trafficked victim:
“The captain and his friends were consuming liquor and drugs. We were told to line up and they played Russian Roulette. Two of the fishermen were shot and the captain ordered us to throw them into the sea. One of them was my cousin. I cannot go home and face his family.”
As we listen to the silenced voices of our communities, we began to identify the gaps which exist. We have different specific and dedicated programmes which are built from and developed through the needs of the communities we work with.
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