63 Bangladeshis living miserably in Malaysia

The youth at a detention centre in MalaysiaScreengrab of a video

“They threaten us if we say anything. We have become sick mentally and physically. Rescue us from here; save us. Otherwise we may have to commit suicide here. We are in a very miserable condition.”

These are over 50 young men, who went to Malaysia in search of work and have been living in a prison-like situation for three months. They are from several villages of Gangni upazila in Meherpur. Prothom Alo has come across five such video clips of them imploring.

The youth were contacted through WhatsApp on Sunday morning. The ‘captive’ youths said that at least 63 of them have been staying on the ground floor and first floor of a three-storey building in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Their passports have been taken from them. Although they were supposed to be provided with jobs within a month, three months have passed by but they did not get any work. They are not even allowed to leave the house. For two days they are eating only mashed potatoes and dal twice a day.

Speaking on WhatsApp video call, it was learned that at least 63 youths from four villages of Kazipur union in Gangni upazila and Mohammadpur village of Motmura union went to Malaysia for work in November last year. Suruj Ali and Awal of Sahebnagar village and Abdullah of Mohammadpur village took them to the country promising to give them work as labourers.

Suruj, Awal and Abdullah are cousins. They took Tk 400,000-500,000 from each of the victims promising them to provide jobs as workers in the construction sector at a monthly salary of Tk 45,000-50,000 within 40 days of reaching Malaysia.

Farooq Hossain, a member of ward no. 1 of Kazipur union, said that over a hundred people from Kazipur and surrounding areas have gone in the hope of good work. A travel agency in Dhaka helped them go to Malaysia but none of them got a job.

The victims alleged that 54 youths were taken to the office of an agency, located on road no. 4 in Banani, Dhaka on 6 November last year. After staying there for a few days, the 54 youths were taken to Malaysia in a flight from Dhaka Airport around 6:00 pm on 11 November. After landing there, the people of the agency took them to a building by car and snatched their passports. Since then their life in detention has been continuing.

The youths say that they live in a few rooms crammed with people. Visas of almost all have expired and they cannot get out of the house. They are provided with potatoes, pulses and rice twice, in the morning and at night. They cook those inside the house and eat. That too is insufficient. They are living in dire circumstances, they youth added.

Those who supply the food are Chinese and Malaysian nationals but they don’t speak. They intimidate the youths when they ask about the work and advise them to contact those who sent them from Bangladesh.

Prothom Alo phoned Suruj Ali from Sahebnagar village to find out about this but it was found to be switched off.

Suruj and Awal’s close relative Abdullah is a resident of Mohammadpur village. Speaking over a mobile phone, Abdullah told Prothom Alo, “There have been some problems in Malaysia. That is why I can’t provide them any work right now. Everyone will be given work within this month. Those who would not get any work, will be brought back to the country. I expect that everyone will get a job by 28 February.”

Abdullah did not answer the question on whether the youths would get back the money after returning home. Claiming that he is a computer operator of that travel agency in Dhaka, he thought about ensuring jobs for some youths of his locality.

During a visit to Kazipur village on Sunday, this correspondent talked to Shilpi Khatun, wife of a certain Rubel who went to Malaysia. She told Prothom Alo, “My husband is in trouble after going abroad. He doesn’t get three meals a day and cries every day to return home. We have nothing left that I could sell and bring him to the country.”

Sathi Khatun, the wife of Rashidul of the same area, said, “He (her husband) went abroad selling a piece of land of the homestead and taking a loan (loan) of Tk 300,000 at high interest. But my husband is in a lot of distress as he did not get any work there. Now he is not sure how he will return home.”

Meherpur deputy commissioner Shamim Hasan told Prothom Alo that the matter was discussed in the district’s law and order committee meeting on Sunday. The families of the victims have been advised to file a case. But none of them are agreeing to file any lawsuit.

* The report, originally published in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza