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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Migrant abuse claims skyrocket five fold

Migrant abuse claims skyrocket five fold

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Domestic migrant maids being held against their will at an SKMM Investment Group training centre in Phnom Penh cry while speaking to reporters from the Post in October last year. The women were freed the following day during a police raid. Photograph: Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post

Complaints of rights violations of migrant workers had increased more than 500 per cent in the first four months of 2012 compared with the same period last year, rights group Adhoc said yesterday.

The number of individual victims of rights violations, mainly migrant workers in Malaysia and Thailand, had increased by nearly 650 per cent, the group said in its report on the situation of migrant workers, obtained by the Post yesterday.

“Forced overwork, little or no rest time, untreated illnesses, torture, severe physical assault, underpayment, threats [of] being jailed, being forced to continue to work illegally and the cut-off of relationships with family members” were the main violations migrant workers suffered, Adhoc said.

“They are in a job, and they have the right to be treated with dignity and communicate with their family – this is their human right,” Chuon Chamrong, head of the women’s section at Adhoc, said.

Of the 141 complaints, 94 were filed because a family had lost contact with a migrant worker in Malaysia.

Since the Cambodian government placed a moratorium on sending maids to Malaysia last October, firms had shut down, gone broke or been closed, severing one of the few means to contact loved ones working there, Adhoc found.

Nisha Jaya, program officer with the Malaysia-based rights group Tenaganita, said that since Indonesia suspended its nationals from working as maids in Malaysia in 2010, many Cambodians had filled the void but were now at the end of their contracts.

“We’re not surprised that there has been a huge increase in cases recently, because most of them [Cambodian maids] are finishing the second year of their contracts,” she said.

Employers, highly reluctant to lose the service of Cambodian maids, had to bring them to their embassy to renew work permits, which gave the women a platform to report any ill-treatment, she said.

Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies (ACRA) president An Bunhak said another reason complaints were so high was because the moratorium had sparked fear among the families of maids.

“Any family that has a problem can contact ACRA or go to the Ministry of Labour. We can help because we have the documents of the employers and the phone number,” he said.

But Adhoc said communication and monitoring mechanisms were failing and called for a hotline to be established nationwide and in receiving countries.

To contact the reporters on the story: Bridget Di Certo at bridget.dicerto@phnompenhpost.com
David Boyle at david.boyle@phnompenhpost.com

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