KOTA KINABALU: A group of stranded crew are anxiously waiting for an end to their months-long ordeal.
Khurshid Iqbal and nine other crew have been on board a cargo vessel adrift at sea near Pulau Gaya, off Kota Kinabalu, since August.
“We are thankful to have received assistance from several non-governmental organisations and good Samaritans after our plight was highlighted in the media last Friday.
“We have been contacted by various parties, including Malaysian Trade Union Congress Sabah vice-chairman Margaret Chin,” he said when contacted.
He said Chin, together with some Sabah Environmental Protection Association representatives and volunteers, had helped to contact the boat owner and brought them to lodge police reports.
They also met with Immigration officials and filed complaints at the Labour Department.
Chin said the case was not to be taken lightly as it involved the welfare of workers coming to Sabah to earn a living.
The stranded crew could also possibly be considered human trafficking victims, she added.
The way the crew were treated – not being paid salaries, provided with little food and water, being forced to live in uncomfortable conditions on board the vessel and having their passports and deposit money taken away – was akin to being trafficked, said Chin.
“We managed to get the boat owner to pay the crew’s two-month salaries through an agent.
“But this is not right. We want the owner to pay the full four months’ salary,” she said, adding that the workers were taken to hospital for a medical check-up last Saturday.
As for the crew’s passports, which were being held by the boat owner, she said the Immigration Department was looking into it.
Previously, Khurshid claimed that their travel deposit of US$12,000 (RM49,820) was being held by the vessel owner.
Chin hoped the owner would return the money, passports and all relevant documents to the crew comprising eight Indians, one from Pakistan and one from the Maldives.
Kota Kinabalu police chief Asst Comm Habibi Majinji said police had handed the case over to the Immigration Department.
“But if there are any elements that require police intervention, we will take the necessary action,” he added.