Activists Raise Concerns Over Malaysia’s Human Trafficking Ranking

Activists have expressed skepticism regarding Malaysia’s improved ranking in the US State Department’s recent human trafficking report, considering it a highly political decision that does not accurately reflect the reality on the ground. Andy Hall, a migrant workers’ rights advocate, argues that the Malaysian government has not made genuine efforts to implement the various plans aimed at combating forced labor and human trafficking effectively. Hall points out issues such as corruption and exploitation within the foreign workers’ recruitment system, the emergence of fraudulent employers, and abusive Malaysian agents, which have not been adequately addressed. He suggests that the upgrade in ranking appears to be politically motivated, influenced by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s close ties with Washington and the government’s narrative of positive changes. Hall warns that such a decision undermines the integrity of the supposedly objective human trafficking ranking system.

While acknowledging improvements in migrant workers’ rights at the industry and company levels, Hall highlights a worsening situation at the government and systemic levels. The management of migrant workers has not improved, and corruption has seemingly intensified, leading to significantly higher recruitment costs and fees for workers. Hall believes that the recent ranking upgrade overlooks these pressing issues and fails to reflect the reality experienced by vulnerable workers.

Adrian Pereira from the North South Initiative (NSI) echoes Hall’s concerns, asserting that the impact of the ranking upgrade has not translated into tangible improvements on the ground. Pereira cites instances of migrant workers arriving with permits but not being provided with actual jobs, leaving them stranded in the country after paying substantial sums to come to Malaysia. He also criticizes the treatment of foreign workers as perpetrators rather than victims in job scams, emphasizing the need to offer them a chance to seek justice.

Pereira further suggests that the US government was compelled to upgrade Malaysia’s ranking to avoid imposing sanctions for the third consecutive year, as Tier 3 status would have resulted in the withholding of US aid. He claims that the US government would be compelled to halt significant projects it has invested in within Malaysia.

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