Risky business of overseas ‘jobs’


The promise of lucrative salaries are luring many Malaysians abroad but most are scams leaving these job seekers cheated and in need of rescuing. 

IT is ironic that at the same time there is an ongoing crackdown on illegal immigrants in the country, Malaysians are being detained in countries like Cambodia, South Korea and even Liberia.

These detentions have increased in frequency to the extent that Wisma Putra has issued a warning to “remind all Malaysians to be cautious of opportunities offered in foreign countries, and always verify the prospective employers”.

It used to be that foreigners (read: South Asians and South-East Asians) were drawn to Malaysia’s booming property and service sectors for better paying jobs.

They still are. On Monday, as part of operations codenamed Ops Mega 3.0, some 73 illegal immigrants, from Bangladesh, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, were held by the police under the Immigration Act. These foreigners were working at the Selangor wholesale market without proper work documents.

But how times have changed. The roles appear to be reversed, the Malaysians that have been detained overseas were for exactly similar offences – no proper work documents.

This time last year, The Star’s Bahasa Malaysia news portal mStar Online revealed that there was an estimated 5,000 Malaysians working and staying illegally in South Korea. The less fortunate ones were forced to live like refugees, always on the run from the authorities.

These Malaysians were lured by job advertisements that claimed they could earn a lucrative living in the land of K-pop. They paid recruitment agents thousands of ringgit in fees and entered South Korea with tourist visas.

Some of these Malaysians interviewed by mStar spoke about the hardships they faced including poor living conditions, tough working environment and employers holding back their salaries.

The Korean police and its justice ministry have begun cracking down on these illegals, starting from last month. Those without proper documentation will be immediately deported.

But Malaysians never learn. Two recent cases highlight the need for employees to be more vigilant and for the authorities to crack down on fly-by-night recruitment agents.

First, the case of the 47 Sarawa­kians who were detained in Cambo­dia since Dec 11 last year on charges of cheating and initiating and carrying out illegal online gambling activities.

It was reported that the Malay­sians were promised jobs with lucrative salaries up to US$1,500 (RM6,100), and only found out that it was a scam when they arrived in Cambodia. 

Their plight was highlighted in local media, and Wisma Putra, other leaders and representatives from Sarawak flew to Cambodia to secure their release. They were finally released on Feb 15.

The second recent case also involved Sarawakians. Eight of them were left stranded in Monro­via, Liberia, since Feb 4 after being offered logging jobs with wages up to RM9,000.

They were left stranded in the African nation without any money, and managed to survive because they were given rice by Malaysians working with Sime Darby in Liberia.  

“If not for the rice, we would definitely be dead,” said Aji Surau, 39, after arriving at KL International Airport on March 4, one month after their ordeal.  

He said they were abandoned in a house with no water and electricity and even resorted to eating papaya leaves to survive.

All these cases have one thing in common – dodgy job syndicates.

These unscrupulous agents rake in thousands of ringgit by promising the world to gullible locals.

“I want to advise Malaysians to be cautious when getting job offers overseas because this is not the first such incident.

“Check with the authorities concerned, especially the Malaysian representatives, whether the company offering the job is legitimate or not,” Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah told reporters after the Liberian detainees were released.

The Cambodia and Liberia incidences appear to be genuine cases of people who were promised legitimate work contracts. But for every genuine case, there are five others who play the “victim” card.

In some countries where Malay­sians are caught working illegally, they claimed that they were lured there with guarantees of proper employment with legal documentation. But the reality is that these people went overseas on tourist visas with the sole intention of getting a job, by whatever means.

Did you know that Malaysians are the worst visa abusers when it comes to overstaying in Australia?

According to a 2018 report from the Australian Department of Home Affairs, there were 62,000 people overstaying their visas and living illegally in Australia, with Malay­sians making up the largest number. Between 2016 and 2017 alone, 10,000 Malaysians had overstayed!

As a result of this blatant abuse of tourist visas, the Australian authorities have made it harder for Malaysians to enter the country.

Australian-based news site news.com.au quoted a source from the Malaysian mission in Australia as saying that more Malaysians are being turned away at the airports, despite having the necessary visas approved before departure.

These visa scams are not only giving us a bad name, but also making it more difficult for genuine Malay­sian tourists to visit Australia.

The latest “tourist” scam is via social media where syndicates are luring people to become drug mules by offering them cash and opportunities to go for tours abroad. But beware, if you’re caught deportation is the least of your problems. A stiff jail sentence or even the death penalty awaits.

Brian Martin On your side

Brian Martin

Brian Martin

Brian Martin, executive editor of The Star, would like to come clean. He has vested interest in the proposed assessment rate hike since he’s a resident of Kuala Lumpur.