Kuala Lumpur - More than 1,000 abused or unpaid Indonesian workers seek refuge at their embassy in Malaysia every year, a top official said yesterday as a row over labour conditions continued.
Speaking after an Indonesian maid knotted pieces of cloth as a makeshift rope to escape alleged abuse by her employers, the official said many workers went years without being paid and some were tortured or sexually assaulted.
“We handle more than 1,000 cases a year. Most of them are maids who come to the embassy to ask for protection,” Tatang Razak, who heads the embassy‘s task force to protect Indonesian nationals, said.
“Most of them have not been paid for two, three or even four years ... Some of them were tortured and some sexually assaulted,” he said.
Tatang said Indonesian embassy officials will help the maids to retrieve their money by mediating with the employers or agencies who brought the workers into Malaysia.
Tatang said at least 80 Indonesian maids are currently staying at the dormitory-style shelter located within the embassy grounds. Three hundred workers were repatriated in the last eight months, he said.
Theresa Kok, a lawmaker and member of the opposition Democratic Action Party, said she visited the shelter with two other politicians yesterday to gather information to bring to parliament.
“We paid a visit to the shelter. We were shocked to know that there are more than 1,000 cases every year and that the employers have not been brought to court,” Kok said.
“We were shocked that the police have been dilly-dallying,” she said.
Malaysia depends heavily on foreign maids but they enjoy little protection under labour laws.
The maids often live with their employers and work long hours under tough conditions to earn up to $130 a month.
Ceriyati Dapin, 33, made headlines after she lowered herself from a 15th storey apartment after allegedly being beaten and having threats made to her life by her employers.
Malaysian police reportedly have arrested her boss, a 35-year-old woman who faces charges of wrongful confinement and causing injury with a dangerous weapon.–AFP
Source: www.gulf-times.com (28 Juni 2007)