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Why is Malaysia target of human traffickers?

11 Jan 2018

Human rights organisation Tenaganita has asked why syndicates and human traffickers frequently target Malaysia, but not Singapore and Thailand which are located in the same geographical area.

Speaking to FMT, its director Glorene Das asked if this was due to Malaysia’s lack of enforcement, or a corrupt system which allowed migrants to be stranded at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) before being taken to Saudi Arabia.

Her concerns followed a report in The Bangkok Post which said an international human trafficking network was not only supplying Malaysia with illegal Indonesian workers but also using the country as a gateway point to send migrants to the Middle East for forced labour.

Commander General Ari Dono Sukmanto, who heads the Indonesian national police criminal investigation unit, said a total of 1,083 Indonesians, including five children, were rescued from the network which Indonesian police crippled last year.

“They were bound for the Middle East, such as the United Arab Emirates and Syria, while another 39, who had been promised work as domestic helpers in Saudi Arabia, were repatriated from Kuala Lumpur in May after they were abandoned by their recruiter.

“They were stranded in the Kuala Lumpur airport for two days until our embassy staff picked them up, and it turned out they were going to Saudi Arabia using a pilgrimage visa instead of work visa,” Ari Dono was quoted as saying.

According to the report, at least 60% of human trafficking victims from Indonesia travelled via Malaysia into Saudi Arabia using pilgrimage visas instead of work visas last year.

Ari Domo said traffickers travelled via Malaysia because a 2015 Indonesian moratorium on sending migrant workers to Saudi Arabia and 20 other Middle Eastern countries was still in place.

Glorene said such incidents were not new and that Malaysia was being used as a transit point to send migrants not only to Saudi Arabia, but also to other countries.

She believed there were loopholes in the law which enabled the syndicates and traffickers to use the country as a transit point.

She said traffickers had stayed away from Singapore due to the strict enforcement of its laws and policies.

“What is it that allows the syndicates and traffickers to continue using Malaysia as a transit point?

“The issue has been raised for a long time and I am sure without corruption, none of this would be happening,” she said, adding that there was also a need for better monitoring.

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