You are here: Home News Indonesian maid's death in Malaysia exposes 'brutal' human trafficking of migrant workers

Indonesian maid's death in Malaysia exposes 'brutal' human trafficking of migrant workers

ABC News, Malaysia, 24 February 2018 - Malaysian prosecutors have charged a 60-year-old woman and her daughter over the death of a young Indonesian woman employed as their domestic maid.

Adelina Sau was allegedly starved, tortured and left to die outside her employer's home on the holiday island of Penang earlier this month.

Neighbours told police she had been denied food and forced to sleep outside with the family Rottweiler. She was taken to hospital but died the next day.

The young woman's death has helped expose what migrant support workers say is a flourishing syndicate trafficking women and men from Indonesia's poor eastern islands into domestic slavery abroad.

As many as 2 million Indonesians work in Malaysia, often as domestic helpers and maids. It is estimated about half are working in the country illegally.

The agency, Migrant Care, estimates at least 120 Indonesians have been killed in Malaysia since 2016 — 20 or more this year alone. It says many, including Ms Sau, appear to be the victim of human traffickers.

"Adelina's case is only the tip of the iceberg of the vulnerability of Indonesian migrant workers," the agency's executive director, Wahyu Susilo, said.

"I suspect Adelina was a victim of human trafficking syndicate that is big in East Nusa Tenggara [Indonesia's easternmost province that includes West Timor]."

Violence against domestic workers from Indonesia, and many other Asian countries, is not new.

Horror stories have surfaced for decades of maids and menial workers abused, beaten, locked up or killed by their employers in countries, including Malaysia.

In 2008, a Malaysian woman was sentenced to jail for scalding her Indonesian domestic helper with a hot iron.

A few years later, a Malaysian couple was convicted of starving an Indonesian domestic helper to death.

But human trafficking appears to be behind the recent surge of deaths.

Migrant Care said 62 Indonesians from Nusa Tenggara province alone were killed in Malaysia in 2017. Only one was found to be working in the country legally. The rest are believed to have been victims of human trafficking.

Many were no doubt tricked into believing they would find proper jobs in Malaysia with good pay and decent working conditions.

Mr Susilo says Indonesia must implement tougher measures to protect such workers.

"It's so expensive to migrate to Malaysia legally, workers like Adelina are vulnerable to human trafficking," he said.

"The Indonesian Government needs to simplify departure procedures for migrant workers so that it is cheap and safe.

"Otherwise they will be trapped in human trafficking syndicates."

Calls to protect Indonesians abroad

Indonesia imposed a moratorium on domestic workers travelling to Malaysia in 2009, but it was lifted two years later.

Similarly, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two countries to regulate pay and working conditions for migrant workers expired in 2016.

Now migrant support groups want the MOU reinstated with safeguards to protect Indonesians abroad.

Indonesia's Foreign Ministry has flagged talks with the Malaysian Government, but no date has been set.

"We will be putting pressure on the Malaysian Government, to ensure that they implement immediately actions that will prevent such cases from happening again," Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said.

Malaysia has agreed to assist. The Government says it will not protect any employer found guilty of persecution or tyranny of foreign workers.

The Philippines is also grappling with a surge in deaths of its own domestic workers, many of them in the Middle East.

In a case that has shocked the country, a domestic Filipina woman, Joanna Demafelis, was found dead in Kuwait, allegedly killed by her employers.

Her body was found stuffed into a freezer in an apartment that was reportedly abandoned since late 2016.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said her body bore torture marks and there were signs she had been strangled.

Mr Duterte has since ordered a ban on Filipinos taking employment in Kuwait, although bans by other countries have failed to stop workers entering the country to work illegally.

Mr Duterte recently ordered a ban on workers travelling to Kuwait. And this week, Philippines senators held a parliamentary inquiry into Ms Demafelis' death.

'Maltreated, killed' overseas

Senate committee chair Joel Villanueva said at least 185 Filipinos have been killed overseas in the past two years.

"How painful is it for a child, sibling, parents, a friend who you have not seen for a long time because they are in another country working, almost being a slave to another race then they will return home lifeless inside a box," he said.

"Maltreated, killed and stuffed inside a freezer. It's very brutal, very cruel."

The Philippines exports about one-tenth of its 100 million people every year to work abroad. The income they send home has helped to prop up the Philippines economy, accounting for about 10 per cent of annual GDP.

But like many Indonesians in Malaysia, an increasing number never make it home.


Document Actions
comments powered by Disqus