Pakistanis Stuck in ASEAN Labor Trafficking Scams

Pakistan_MalaysiaIn current scenario, the cases of sex trafficking get a lot of global attention and media coverage, whereas labor trafficking gets sidelined. Needless to say, labor trafficking is a huge phenomenon faced by the world.  While labor trafficking is not exactly a secret, it is very difficult to identify the persons who become the victims of labor trafficking scams.

But if we look around, this is something we see “everywhere.”

Recently on a Dubai-Kuala Lumpur transit a group of closely attached young Pakistani men were seen at the airport lounge. The group constituted 12 men and it was apparent that it was their first ever time to sit on a plane. The most interesting thing to be noted was they were barely able to speak in Pakistan’s national language Urdu, and barely managed few liners in English. However they were all on their way to Malaysia holding valid work permits.

Local investigations  find that a quarter of all workers in Malaysia in forced labor include large number of young men from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Most South Asian youth arrive to Malaysia via employment recruiting agencies. This trend has been criticized within Pakistan by several leading politicians who argue that Pakistani workers sign agreements with lucrative wages and wonderful terms in Pakistan, but when they actually land inside Malaysia, the outsourcing companies substitute those contracts for more exploitative ones.

Speaking with a Pakistani labor who has recently returned back into the country was an eye opener. For maintaining privacy, we will call this twenty-six year old man Zahir Murad originally from Faislabad district. Zahir spent five years in Johor, Malaysia where he worked as a window cleaner on the tourist Hotels.

In his own words, “I spend my days hundreds of feet high to work overtime all the time, day in day out, sickness or not. I don’t think I will ever think of going abroad again.” Zahir Murad was offered a lucrative contractual job by a recruiting agency of a construction company but upon arrival to Malaysia, he turned into cleaner overnight and spent almost all those years cleaning only despite his educational credentials. More ever, he lived in a small room with other four men.

Zahir watches me but his expression tells me he is reliving those times, and suddenly he blurts out, “I feel like such a failure, what I got after spending five years aboard to show it at home. On top of that, the recruiting agencies told such wonderful stories of Malaysia, a great destination for Muslim migrants.” 

The humiliation Zahir suffered won’t fade away so easily and like many others, this trauma has scarred him for life. After speaking with him, my mind immediately thought of those eager looking faces at the Dubai airport terminal. But I will probably never know what happened to them, one can just hope that their fate wasn’t like that of Zahir’s.

For past two years, another Pakistani Junaid Mohammad is working as a security guard in Kuala Lumpur with a Malaysian security company. He is one of the hundreds of young Pakistanis and Afghans who came to Malaysia seeking better career prospects and larger earnings. His recruiters provided documents that on paper seemed like a Golden Dream come true and even instigated that the company car would pick him at the airport. But upon arrival, Junaid spent four days at the departure terminal to understand that nobody was coming. Finally, the recruiting agency man came making excuses of a family emergency. He took Junaid to the new work premises, but went away with his passport citing official documentation motives.

Junaid’s contract stated his monthly salary at 3000 Malaysian Ringgits (approximately US$900).In reality, he’s actually only managed to less than half of the promised amount and cannot move freely to seek help due to his vulnerable status of being a foreigner without his passport. During this time, he fell sick and needed medical attention. As he braved the roads, he was arrested and labelled as an illegal immigrant. The local police let him go; it seems bribes work well in Malaysia just like Pakistan.

Junaid complains of being abused both by his recruiters and the authorities in Malaysia who don’t want to deal with the problems of migrants workers. But he knows, any open retaliation means he will be fired and without his passport he is stranded into nowhere.

Some of his colleagues were able to contact the embassy but that too didn’t help change their situation. Junaid says, “The embassy staff in Kuala Lumpur don’t help us at all, they are immoral and unkind. They are enjoying good salaries but when it comes for serving Pakistanis, they really do nothing.”

Junaid and his colleagues demand that Governments of Pakistan and Malaysia respectively look into the matter, because migrant labor rights are getting abused as we so speak. Such cases are a tip on the iceberg of the complexity that faces Asian migrant laborer rights and need immediate attention. The regional network CARAM Asia works on migration and health issues says that Pakistanis makes up the majority of  more than half of foreigner workers in Malaysia. The organization also says that over two-thirds of migrant workers don’t get their wages on time and many get physically and sexually harassed.

Its time to stand up against Labor trafficking which is a form of modern-day slavery in which individuals perform labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.

First published on Sept.16 2015 

South East Asia News

#caram-asia, #economic-rights, #government-of-pakistan, #health-rights, #human-rights-violations, #human-traffickers, #labor-rights, #malaysia, #migrant-rights

‘Trafficking of South Asian Women Migrants Workers ‘

Every year millions of women from poor communities across South Asia migrate to find employment so they can send money home to support their families. But many end-up being deceived and trafficked into jobs with extremely low wages or don’t get paid at all.

Their movements get restricted, their living and working conditions are very poor and they often suffer threats and all sorts of abuse.

Last year,UK Department for International Development (DFID), the International Labor Organization (ILO) & the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) launched the newWork in Freedom” programme to fight trafficking of women and girls from South-Asia. This programme is tackling the issue through its multifaceted approaches that work on addressing the pertinent reasons behind the continued exploitative trafficking of South Asian women.

It is my humble opinion that south asian women’s status in global-sphere is somewhat very limited, dehumanized and degrading.

This feeds into the heinous system that allows for the continued lowly status and manipulation of women from this region. This project is like a breath of fresh air because it is aiming to make migration safe for girls and women, travelling to work in the domestic labor and garment sectors in the Middle East and within South Asia.

It has also introduced a unique measure of using “mobile phones” and capacity building of language skills to assist migrant women in getting the much-needed help they would be requiring to get out of a nightmare.

The project is concentrating on three key departure countriesBangladesh, India and Nepal — and major destination countries – India, Jordan, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. Please watch this heart wrenching video to hear a glimpse of what some migrant women workers went through.

Say no to Trafficking & Illegal Labour Manipulations!

Source: Work in Freedom Report

Writer  

South East Asia News 

Ace News Room 

#bangladesh, #difd-uk, #garment-industry, #human-trafficking, #ilo, #jordan, #labor-rights, #lebanon, #migrant-rights, #nepal, #sexual-abuse, #slavery, #south-asia, #stereotyping, #work-in-freedom

UK’s Forced Marriages, will Legislation help?

“Forced marriage is abhorrent and little more than slavery. To force anyone into marriage against their will is simply wrong and that is why we have taken decisive action to make it illegal,” said David Cameron, UK’s premier.

Adhering to the gravity of the situation, UK government is adamant to criminalize the controversial practice. Under the proposed legislation, expected to be put before Parliament after 2013, forced marriage will become a criminal offence and parents who coerce their children into marrying would be facing the prospect of a prison sentence.

UK is home to a large migrant community hailing from South-Asian including Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. This problem is brought  by them into the UK through the existing culture of these countries, where parents by and large control the decision of marriage and spouses. But local research shows that “forced marriages” also happens in the Irish traveling community, Chinese, North African and Somali communities.

UK believes that proper legislation might be the right cure. But campaigners like Sameen Ali and others are already raising the red flag about possible adverse effects of the government plans to criminalize forced marriage in England and Wales.

Opinion: Sameen Ali is a forced marriage victim and campaigner of Pakistani descent. She was forced to marry in Pakistan at the age of 13 to a man she did not know, and gave birth to a boy aged just 14. Her ordeal of humiliation and abuse continued even after her return to the UK. She shares her story in her memoir “Belonging”, which has become an inspiration for many victims. Her courage and determination to fight for her rights is helping others in constructive ways.

She raises plausible concerns related to the up-coming legislation. She says that “Criminalizing the practice would only drive this practice underground, in more secretive manner. The numbers may go down because the victims will probably not come forward any more, because no young person really wants to say ‘arrest mummy and daddy’ because it is mummy and daddy who force the young person into marriage in the first place.”

She also argues that the new law will also create confusion in the minds of young people and cause rifts not only within families but within the different communities living in the UK.  The proposed law is already causing stirrings into the migrant community hailing from S.Asia and others, probably because it’s perceived to have offended their culture. Soon the practising communities might take dire steps leading towards more negative repercussions  for women, at large.

Sameen has a point when she says young people need to be educated about the good and bad elements of their culture. They do not need to be told that their culture is all bad, so therefore they should disrespect it and be given a mechanism such as this law.

She is struggling to advocate that forced marriages may be part of culture, but have more to do with patriarchal control over children.

Her own life serves as a role model for people because she upped and left that marriage with her young child. After her escape, it took years of struggle to put her life together. She states that a victim’s life does not end at a forced marriage; it’s about finding a method of how to get out of the abuse and try to start over. She agrees that it’s not as easy as it sounds, but that’s where institutional and government’s support comes in.

It’s important to provide opportunities to the victims to get out of the abuse and resume their lives again. For instance; resuming the education and vocational training can be practical in helping abused girls to stabilize socio-economically.

The government is resolute at trying to solve the problem through drawing a strict legislation without acknowledging these cultural diversities.

A most ridiculous aspect of this law is that first victims will be forced into marriage they did not want, and then they will be forced to come into court and give evidence against their parents. Are they on auto-pilot? Not one inch of consideration about the trauma that the victim would already be coping with.

For all her critique, Sameen has raised valid points and also suggested ways for tackling the problem. She says that the power for negotiation lies within young people who need to be equipped how to be a catalyst in all this.

The power lies within the young people. And they need to be empowered to stand up against this abuse and educate their parents about forced marriage. 

The practice of forced marriage is deeply rooted and change has to come from within. Awareness needs to come at the root of this cause and young people can create that change, and they can educate their parents against the pitfalls of such marriages.

It is not about criminalizing their parents. And it is not about scoring points either.

Ironically, the rising numbers is an indication that countless youngsters are starting to feel safe and confident, and are speaking out against this abuse. These numbers also provide significant evidence that the young generations are integrating better as compared to the earlier immigrants.

This journey from isolation and parallel reality towards a healthier assimilation requires continued institutional-back-up so young generations can take forward the process in a constructive manner. The forced marriage issue will not vanish over-night from the UK or elsewhere.

But UK government should try intelligent lobbying with community leaders before introducing a law that might not really work.

Posted in Gender and Women Issues

South East Asia News 

Ace News Room 

#ace-news-room, #child-rights, #cultural-diversity, #england-and-wales, #forced-marriages, #gender-based-violence, #integration, #migrant-rights, #patriarchy, #slavery, #under-age-marriages, #youth