The Jakarta Globe, January 11, 2013,
Malaysian police freed 20 Indonesian maids held in captivity at a Kuantan maid agency on Thursday, an Indonesian embassy official said.
The women found work as maids, but were recently sent back to the agency after their employers were dissatisfied with their performance, the Indonesian news portal antarabengkulu.com reported.
They were then held for several days at the agency’s office, Suryana Sastradiredja, spokesman for the Indonesian Embassy in Malaysia, said. The women allegedly faced starvation and abuse by agency staff while they were held in the office.
On Thursday, five women — all from Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara — escaped from the office on Jalan Beserah and flagged down a passing motorist, according to reports by Malaysia’s state news agency Bernama.
Police raided the office and found 15 other maids in various states of starvation, Suryana said. The women were rushed to the nearby Hospital Tengku Ampuan Afzan for examination. They currently reside in a safe house run by the Malaysian Ministry of Women’s Empowerment.
“They are in the good hands of Malaysian government in the safe house,” Suryana said.
Kuantan Police arrested three unidentified suspects during the raid, Suryana said. All are suspected of acting as human traffickers, Bernama reported. The agency allegedly lured the women to work for them with promises of high salaries and good jobs. They all entered Malaysia on social visit passes, according to Kuantan police chief ACP Mohd Jasmani Yusoff.
“We have sent the Indonesian women who entered the country using social visit pass to a women’s protection center in Kuala Lumpur,” he told the news agency.
The Indonesian Embassy will provide the women with assistance until they are allowed to return to Indonesia, Suryana said.
“They have to testify at court after the police complete their investigation,” he said.
Thursday’s raid was the second instance Indonesian maids being held in captivity in as many months. On Dec. 1, Malaysian police freed 105 women held against their will in an agency office in Bandar Baru Klang, Selangor state. The majority of the women — 95 in total — were Indonesian.
Twelve people, including K.C. Lau, the owner of the accused Agensi Pekerjaan Sentosa, and five Indonesian citizens were named as suspects in the case. Further investigation implicated 14 Indonesian recruitment agencies in the trafficking ring.
Suryana warned potential migrant workers against working with unscrupulous placement agencies, explaining that many workers are currently in Malaysia illegally.
“Many of them enter Malaysia using a tourist visa and work illegally,” he said.
Last year, some 100 Indonesians were legally authorized to work in Malaysia, Suryana previously said. But an additional 20,000 others entered the country illegally with the hope of finding well-paying jobs as maids or laborers.