Editorial Notes

Stamp out student trafficking: The Star

Victims of the student trafficking trade have no choice but to work illegally, and often under inhumane conditions, to pay off their debts.
Victims of the student trafficking trade have no choice but to work illegally, and often under inhumane conditions, to pay off their debts. PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK

In its editorial on November 4, the paper urges educational authorities to do their part to stop exploitation of international students.

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Over the past few months, The Star's R.AGE team (that specialises in investigative journalism) has been publishing articles and documentaries about student trafficking.

It's a term coined to describe how international students are being brought into the country for profit alone.

These students are recruited by agents through deception.

They were charged exorbitant fees and extorted for more money along the way, before arriving at colleges that do not offer a proper education.

Many of these students end up with crippling debts and are forced to work informally to recoup their losses.

Since the story first broke in August, R.AGE has been engaging different government agencies and representatives of higher education institutions to seek a solution to this exploitation of international students.

Finally, after months of consultations and planning, R.AGE is proposing what it hopes will be the cure. The catch? All of us have to play our part.

The Students Against Trafficking campaign, launched on Nov 27, is an online platform that allows students to publicly call on their own colleges and universities to implement safer recruitment practices.

The key thrust of this campaign is a "commission-only" policy. That means recruitment agents are not allowed to charge the students directly.

They only earn a commission from the institution they are recruiting for.

We are calling for institutions to blacklist the agents who flout this policy.

Since unscrupulous agents are the root of the problem, we hope this policy prevents these agents from profiteering, and incentivises agents who take the effort to establish accountable working relationships with the institutions.

It has to be said that most of Malaysia's reputable higher education institutions have already implemented the policies recommended in this campaign.

For these institutions, we hope that their support for this campaign places them as shining examples of quality education paired with responsible business practices.

At the time of writing, two such private universities have already pledged their support for the campaign. We hope many more will follow.

The Higher Education Ministry and the Council for Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants have also openly supported this campaign.

While the government has an inherent responsibility to govern, that does not mean civil society and industries can shirk their responsibilities.

It is easy to point the finger at authorities, but it takes courage to solve problems.

And courage is what we are asking from Malaysia's higher education institutions and their students.

Show the world that Malaysia is making good on its promise of becoming an international education hub, and that Malaysians are brave enough to stand up for our fellow human beings.

The Star is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.