Eliminate student trafficking: The Star

A group of foreign students arrested by the Malaysian Putrajaya Immigration Department in a raid.
A group of foreign students arrested by the Malaysian Putrajaya Immigration Department in a raid.PHOTO: HARIAN METRO

In its editorial on Wednesday (Aug 16), The Star newspaper urges all concerned to end the deceit involving overseas education seekers.

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - It is appalling that some private colleges in Malaysia are involved in human trafficking. Institutions of higher learning are supposed to help realise hopes and dreams, not help crush them through deceit, greed and exploitation.

As a result, lives are ruined and Malaysia gets a black eye. This has to end and the culprits must pay.

The Star's R.AGE (youth news and lifestyle platform) has discovered that several local colleges cooperate with traffickers who dangle education and job opportunities in front of young Bangladeshis to get them to come to Malaysia.

Posing as agents representing the colleges, the traffickers collect large sums of money from the families, with many of them relying on life savings and loans to give the children a shot at a better life.

Offer letters from the colleges are key components of the scam because they allow their victims to fly here. Soon after, things quickly unravel for these students.

Promises go unfulfilled. More money is demanded. The victims are forced to work illegally and live poorly. In debt and always afraid that they will be caught, they are easy prey for those who cheat and enslave. Very few will go home with a college education.

R.AGE has coined a term for this - student trafficking.

It is encouraging that the R.AGE project to help victims of student trafficking has the support of the Higher Education Ministry, Immigration Department and some non-governmental organisations.

This problem is certainly something that deserves the full attention of the government if this country is to become an "international education hub with a difference".

The Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (Higher Education) points out that Malaysia is among the top recruiters of international students globally.

The enrolment of these students soared from 45,000 in 2007 to nearly 100,000 in 2014.

The target is to have 250,000 international students by 2025.

Therefore, global prominence is one of the blueprint's 10 shifts that would take the Malaysian higher education system to the next level.

The drive to draw more foreign students is based on three strategies: enhancing the international student experience, increasing brand visibility and attracting new markets.

But the hard work on this front will mean little if student trafficking is not eliminated. When recruitment becomes trafficking and experience becomes an ordeal, the brand deteriorates into infamy.

The private colleges that have a part in trafficking activities must be weeded out quickly and permanently. The people behind these shady operations should never be allowed to set up new institutions.

During a meeting with R.AGE to discuss solutions to student trafficking, Higher Education Minister Idris Jusoh was visibly angered.

"What these colleges and agents are doing is a sin. It is sinful. I really feel bad for the victims," he said.

"But I don't just want to use strong language. I want action. I want to put an end to this."

Indeed, action against the wrongdoing is what matters most. If student trafficking in Malaysia is not halted, it may well be a greater sin.