PETALING JAYA: The 171 Bangladeshis duped into coming to Malaysia for non-existent jobs cannot be detained or charged for offences as they are victims of trafficking, says human rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL).
In a statement, LFL director Zaid Malek said any overstaying should be attributed to the exploitative practices of unscrupulous agents.
“This would mean that the migrants here are victims of trafficking as per Section 2 of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007 (Atipsom),” he said.
“As they are victims of trafficking, the migrants cannot be detained in immigration depots or charged for offences.”
Zaid’s remarks followed Monday’s arrest of the Bangladeshis who were seen marching together in Pengerang, Johor, in a video that went viral.
Kota Tinggi police chief Hussin Zamora said the Bangladeshis were marching to the Bayu Damai police station to file a report as they claimed that their agents had failed to provide them with jobs as promised.
Several quarters, including Pengerang MP Azalina Othman Said, called for an immediate investigation into the recruitment agents responsible for deceiving migrant workers about non-available jobs.
In his statement, Zaid also said the migrants should have been brought to the magistrate within 24 hours of their arrest, to be given an interim protection order and placed in a designated place of refuge, as mandated by Section 44 of Atipsom.
“There have been no reports that this process has been undertaken by the authorities,” he added.
“The failure to initiate the process of obtaining a protection order for the migrants obstructs them from being recognised as trafficked persons and afforded immunity from criminal prosecution for overstaying as dictated by Section 25 of Atipsom.”
As such, he called for the immediate release of the 171 Bangladeshis and the suspension of overstaying investigations.
Zaid also urged the Council for Anti-Trafficking and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants to exercise its function and coordinate the implementation of Atipsom.
“It would be a grave injustice for the migrants, who entered the country legally to seek legitimate employment, to simply be deported back to their country of origin due to the actions of deceitful agents and the failure of the government to ensure they receive fairness and justice,” he said.