Crossroads, our collection of advocacy videos on migrant workers, refugees, and stateless people in Malaysia was recently screened by our local partners KOMAS to a class of 45 students at the Methodist College in Kuala Lumpur.
This screening, which featured the films Polis Pao, Cupin Cerita, Perangkap, and In Search of Shelter, prompted a lively discussion. “If the situation is so bad in Malaysia, why they still want to work here?”, asked the students. Our resource person from the migrant worker NGO Tenaganita, explained that it was because the average wages are much higher in Malaysia. However, local employers take advantage of that fact to give them lower pay and worse working conditions as compared to local workers.
The students also noted that different treatment is seemingly accorded to expatriates in the country. For example, they are allowed to bring their children with them and to have them study in international schools, whereas migrant workers not accorded the same rights. Such prohibitions are also against a child’s right to education.
It was shared that we shouldn’t distinguish between different types of workers, and that everyone, regardless of where they come from, have a right to cross borders and look for a better life to ensure their survival. Tenaganita put the point across that, “no human being is illegal – just undocumented”. And just because someone lacks a document, it shouldn’t mean that they lose all their rights to dignity, proper pay, and protection from harm and extortion.
In closing, the students were asked if they had a right to pursue their studies overseas or whether it would be fair for them to get lower pay if they worked illegally while studying to support themselves.
After Crossroads toolkits were given to their lecturer, the students were introduced to Tenaganita’s work so they could consider volunteering with them or call their hotline if they come across any migrant worker in need of help.