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Sunday November 3, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday November 3, 2013 MYT 7:43:51 AM
by nelson benjamin
Pining for her son: Faridah Yashim holding a photograph of her son Ariff who arrived in Malaysia to work using a student visa. Looking on are his siblings and other family members.
Bangladeshi workers come here with dreams of becoming rich, only to end up victims of human trafficking syndicates who are raking in huge profits bringing them in as tourists and students.
SHARGADA Bagum, 46, lives in a tiny wooden shack in Gazipur, a remote village about 150km from Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Her husband Sofikul Islam, 50, rears cows and grows vegetables to earn an income for them and their youngest son.
It has been 10 years since any of them saw their eldest son Taufik Rahman, 25, who went to work in the furniture industry in Malaysia.
Shargada says that although her son has been keeping in touch with the family at least once a month via a phone call, she knows he is living a hard life in Malaysia as he hardly sends any money home.
“He always gives excuses that the cost of living is high in Malaysia but I know that he is in trouble.
“I have told him many times to come back but he insists that he wants to make his fortune in Malaysia, come back and then set up a sundry shop in the village.”
Shargada’s family has been struggling to repay about 280,000 taka (RM12,000), which they borrowed from money lenders to send Taufik to Malaysia via an agent.
“This agent told us that Malaysia is a land of opportunity and that my son would be highly paid there. They said that within four years of working in Kuala Lumpur, my son would be able to build a nice house and even set up a business in the village,” she relates.
“We trusted him (the agent). We sold everything and also borrow-ed the money to send my son to Malaysia.”
In the past 10 years, besides worrying about their son, they have also been struggling to service the interest charged by the money lenders.
Shargada begins to cry as she talks about her son. She says her son is an illiterate who could not read or write and he just placed his thumb prints on all the documents prepared by the agent.
“He never went to the Malaysian embassy as the agent took care of everything, including the flight and accommodation. I was only supposed to pay half the money in Bangladesh and the balance once he got out of the Malaysian airport,” she says.
She is not the only Bangladeshi mother pining for her son, however.
Another mother, Faridah Yashim, 45, also misses her son who left for Malaysia last month on a student visa.
“We paid the agent about 280,000 taka (RM12,000) and he (agent) told us that this was the only way to get into Malaysia due to the long waiting period,” Faridah says, adding that her son was supposed to work in a garment factory in Johor but is instead working as a welder now.
She says her son was complaining of cuts and bruises and the long working hours that he is forced to endure daily.
“It took us almost one year to raise the money for him to make the trip to Malaysia. Now, hopefully with his salary, his five other siblings can have a better life,” she says.
While both mothers are missing and worrying about the safety of their children, the sons are also struggling after being conned by unscrupulous agents.
Taufik Rahman, 25, describes his 10-year stay in Malaysia as a nightmare.
“When I first came here in 2003, I worked in a furniture factory in Kapar in Klang. The company went bankrupt in 2004.”
He says he felt cheated on first day he set foot in Malaysia, as he found out that his monthly wage was RM900 instead of RM1,800 as promised by the agent.
“Since then, my life has gone downhill and I have worked odd jobs in all the states in the peninsular Malaysia. I have also spent countless days in prisons and lock ups after the authorities discovered that I have overstayed.”
Taufik, whose hands are pockmarked with scars and wounds from cigarette burn, says he also has to hide in the jungle whenever the authorities embark on a massive operation to weed out illegals.
Taufik claims he was also cheated in the 6P programme.
Hoping to become a legal worker, he paid an agent RM3,000 to do the process for him. But the agent he hired disappeared, taking with him not only the RM3,000 but also Taufik’s only valid document, his Bangladesh passport.
Taufik, who currently works as a wireman for a contractor in Johor and gets paid RM60 daily, says he cannot just pack up and go home because his parents have sacrificed a lot to send him to Malaysia.
“I will have to take my chances as I need to save at least RM30,000 before returning to Bangladesh. My life was ruined by the agents who promised me a secure and well-paying job in Malaysia. I regret coming here but I have to endure all this suffering for my family’s sake.”
Taufik cannot tell his family about his suffering, knowing that it would cause them a lot of grief.
“Thoughts of my family, especially my mother, help me get through the terrible days,” he says in his rented accommodation, a tiny room in Segamat.
After his bitter experience, Taufik is advising his fellow countrymen aspiring to come to Malaysia to enter the country legally.
Life has been no less difficult for Faridah’s son, Ariff Hussin, 26, since he was taken from his village to Bangladesh’s main airport, Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, on a concocted student visa.
He relates that on the day he reached Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), he was told the Malaysian authorities were carrying out massive checks on illegal immigrants.
“I had to stay in the airport for several days. I was not alone as there were seven of us from different parts of Bangladesh at the airport.
“The agent told me that if I was stopped by the airport authorities, I was to say that I am a student coming here to learn English at a college in Kuala Lumpur.
“They also told me to say no if I was asked whether I was here to look for a job.”
He ended up, along with other Bangladeshi men, being detained by Immigration officers for questioning.
He was released soon after his college lecturer arrived with the necessary documents and was later allowed to enter Malaysia.
“I was then taken to a house in Kuala Lumpur and told to contact my family in Bangladesh to release the balance of the money to agents,” he says.
Ariff was then taken to a welding shop in Sg Buloh instead of a textile factory in Johor and made to work there 14 hours daily for a meagre RM40 a day.
“This is hard work but I have no choice except to carry on as I have my mother and five siblings back home to take care of,” he says.
Asked whether his family was aware of his hardship, he says they think he is working in an air-conditioned factory making jeans.
Then there are cases of Bangladeshis who have been caught and repatriated but have managed to sneak back into the country, and their situation is not as challenging as Taufik’s or Ariff’s.
Faizul Islam, 24, from Chittagong, about 250km from Dhaka, was repairing cars in his hometown when he heard about a job offer in Malaysia. He decided to come here as a tourist paying 220,00 taka (RM9,100) to an agent in 2007.
“My parents did not have anything to sell and decided to borrow from loan sharks for me to come here and work. But my monthly salary then was only RM700 a month.
“To make matters worse, I was nabbed by Immigration the following year for overstaying and spent 45 days in the Malacca Prison,” he says, adding that he was then deported.
Back in Chittagong, the loan sharks, worried that they would not be able to recover their debts and money, decided to give Faizul another loan of RM10,000 to return to Malaysia the following year – again as a tourist.
With the help of some friends, Faizul set up a welding company and now lives a comfortable life in Selangor, earning between RM4,000 and RM5,000 a month.
He has been able to repay all his debts and has also been legalised under the 6P programme.
He employs about a dozen Bangladeshis in his factory, which makes iron gates and house grilles.
For Faizul, his biggest regret was to come to Malaysia after listening to promises from agents and posing as a tourist.
Like Taufik, Ariff and many of the Bangladeshi migrant workers who come here with dreams of making it rich, Faizul too wants to make as much money as possible in Malaysia and return to their own country to start a new and better life.
Tags / Keywords:
Family & Community, bangladesh, migrant workers, malaysia, segamat, conned
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