GEORGE TOWN: Forty-two Vietna-mese women living together in a house here have allegedly been surviving mainly on rice for the past few months.
The women, aged between 30 and 50, are said to be unable to return to Vietnam as their visas have expired.
They have been staying in a semi-detached double-storey house in Jalan Tull for the past few months.
The house has four rooms and a toilet upstairs.
There is also a living room, a small room, toilet and kitchen downstairs.
It is said that up to five women would sleep in a room while some had to sleep in the living room.
The women's plight came to light when their neighbours informed the authorities after finding the noise made by the women, especially at night, intolerable.
One of the women, known only as Hai, said most of them were jobless and could not send money back to their families.
“Some of us have been in Malaysia for a year and a half but our visas have expired,” she said.
She claimed that some of the women used to work as cleaners at a hospital and were paid RM50 a day but their wages were later reduced to RM25.
“In the end, we were not paid at all though we continued to work. Only a few of us are still working,” she said, adding that their agent was holding on to their passports.
When reporters visited the house, three women appeared sickly.
There were some fish, vegetables and eggs in the refrigerator.
Hai claimed that their agent would send 20kg of rice to them every three days.
She added that they would add salt to their rice for flavour.
“We have been calling the Vietnamese embassy every day, asking them to help us go home, but we are still waiting for a response,” she said.
She added that all they wanted now was to return home.
She alleged that they knew of 26 other Vietnamese and Nepalese foreign workers who were men, living in another house.
The women cried when relating their misfortune to Pulau Tikus assemblyman Koay Teng Hai who visited them yesterday.
Koay said he would contact the Vietnamese embassy as soon as possible.
“There are similar cases in Penang, such as in Paya Terubong.
“I will also contact the Immigration Department and the police,” he said.