Malaysian authorities have freed 105 mostly Indonesian domestic helpers who were forced to work without pay by day and held against their will at night, local media reported yesterday.
The women were freed on Saturday after a police raid on a building near the capital Kuala Lumpur where they had been held captive by their employment agency, the reports said.
The 95 Indonesians, six Filipinos and four Cambodians had entered Malaysia in recent months on social visit passes that do not confer the right to work in the country.
It left them vulnerable to abuse from any illicit employers, officials were quoted as saying. Authorities involved in the case could not immediately be reached.
The Star newspaper said the women were locked up in three floors of a building in the state of Selangor.
They were sent every morning to houses in the area to work as domestic helpers but were confined at night, it quoted Selangor immigration department director Amran Ahmad as saying.
The newspaper said some of the women claimed the agency planned to take seven months of their pay as compensation for recruitment services. Twelve people were arrested over their confinement, it added.
Malaysia has been a magnet for women from Indonesia, the Philippines and Cambodia who seek work as helpers.
However, Indonesia imposed a ban on sending helpers to Malaysia three years ago following numerous cases of women being abused by their employers or recruiters.
Indonesia, the main source of domestic workers for Malaysia, announced last December it would lift the ban after the two countries agreed to give them more protection.
But new incidents have continued to rankle Jakarta.
In October, an advertisement in Malaysia that offered Indonesian helpers "on sale" went viral online in Indonesia, sparking fresh outrage.
Last month, police were investigating a man in northern Malaysia who allegedly raped his 15-year-old Indonesian helper.
Also last month, three police officers were charged with raping a 25-year-old Indonesian woman at a police station.