Human trafficking victim 'sold' twice
KOTA KINABALU, MALAYSIA, 25 June 2010 (Borneo Post)—It was the worst 16 days of Albert Joseph’s life. During that short period, he was ’sold’ twice and was forced to work on two jobs foreign to him.Believing that he was a victim of human trafficking, the 37-year-old disclosed that his determination to escape and luck had helped him to be reunited with family members back home.
"There were 24 of us. We were approached by a friend whose father was recruiting friends from the village to take up a six-months’ electronic course in Kuala Lumpur and which also promised accommodation and monthly allowances.
"Of course for someone like me who only possess a SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia) qualification, it was a golden opportunity, so we filled in the form to take up the offer. That was in 1992.
"I remembered staying a night in Kota Kinabalu before we were flown to KL. When we were in the city, I spent all my money to buy some basic things, thinking that it was a long way from home," said Joseph from Kampung Tenghilan, Tuaran, recalling the incident.
The then 19-year-old said they were welcomed by a man at the airport, who stayed quiet the whole time, and they were brought to a bungalow.
"We were asked to stay at the basement and were told that we would start work the next day. Shocked, one of us told the ‘taukeh’ that we were there to study.
"He told us that he was not offering any courses but had bought us all to work for him. I showed him a copy of the application we had filled, to which he said, the offer had long expired and that the institute offering the course had long shut down its business.
"We just refused to work and demanded to be sent home. The ‘taukeh’ told us that we could only leave when we had paid the expenses of bringing us to KL. Only about half of us managed to get themselves out while the rest were forced to work.
"I was told that the ‘taukeh’ had bought me for RM1,500, and I was asked to work as a fisherman. I worked for two days but fell sick the third day, so I was asked to take my rest. I took the opportunity to escape and went to the police station in Perak for help. I explained my situation and asked whether they (police) could help me contact any officials from Sabah to assist. But instead of calling the officers concerned, they contacted the agent who had brought me there … so my escape bid failed and I was in their clutches again.
"The agents told me that if I do not want to work, I should not cause any trouble. I demanded to be sent back, and the next thing I know, I was asked to board the fish truck and was sent back to the ‘taukeh’ in KL," said Joseph, sharing his experience during a press conference on ‘Campaign Against Human Trafficking: Cross Border Counter Trafficking Project 2010-2011′, a joint programme by the Archdiocesan Human Development Committee (AHDC) and the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), here, yesterday.
He was again sold for the second time for RM1,100 and was asked to work at a laundry shop.
"I told my employer that I was tricked and told the whole story. I asked him whether he could send me to a Catholic Church. He feared for his own safety but told me where the church was located and gave RM2 before releasing me, he said.
Joseph said he went to the church but was not entertained due to communication breakdown.
"The person-in-charge could only understand English, and I could only speak Bahasa Malaysia. So I was asked to leave," he said.
He stayed outside the church, not knowing what was in store for him.
"It was late and I attended the sunset mass. I went to talk to the priest and he introduced me a former government officer’s wife. She and her husband helped reunite me and my family … I am very thankful to them. The rest is history," he said.
Joseph said that the issue on human trafficking had long existed in the society, way before the Anti Human Trafficking Act was implemented in 2008.
"I am confident that it is still happening today. And many of our youths are still tricked to take up jobs that promises lucrative offers. It is important to educate the people on this issue to prevent them from falling victims to such traps," he said.
Joseph said today, he fully devotes his time to doing charitable works with a non-governmental organisation.
His works have won himself numerous state-level youth awards, adding: "It is very rewarding to help the people and share with them our past experiences."
Admitting that he was still traumatised by the whole incident, Joseph hopes that the implementation of the Anti Human Trafficking Act would not be left as just another ‘lip service’.
"I hope the government would act to combat this issue because it is a serious crime. Do not let our youths be tricked. Come up with courses that would be beneficial to the young people here, train them so that they will have a better future," he said.