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Chinese Embassy Steps in to Help Stranded Workers Get back Home
Some 32 villagers from Pingtan County in East China's Fujian Province suddenly "disappeared'' in Malaysia from June 11 and had not been heard from, the Southeast Express reported Monday.

"We've not had any information from my brother for several days. Please help them,'' a woman with the surname Weng in Pingtan County told a local newspaper on June 19.

Hundreds of Chinese laborers, conned into parting with their hard-won savings by the promise of work in Malaysia, have found themselves stranded.

But not only were there no jobs on offer when they arrived, the 300 or so discovered that they are not legally allowed to work in the country, according to Lu Yueke, a counselor with the Chinese Embassy in Malaysia.

Some of those caught up in the labor scam paid up to 150,000 yuan (US$18,000) to agent intermediaries, Lu said.

On Monday the Chinese Embassy in Malaysia confirmed that they are in contact with local immigration departments to arrange for those affected to be repatriated.

The majority of the would-be workers are from the provinces of Fujian, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shandong, Lu said.

After paying 38,500 yuan (US$4,600) service charge to go-betweens, Weng's elder brother and 31 other villagers set off for Malaysia on March 21.

The villagers had been promised by intermediaries Wang Yonggui and You Degen, that they could make fortune in Malaysia.

The laborers dream was quickly dashed and they discovered the reality of their situation.

Following the disappearance of the laborers, the two intermediaries at first denied any knowledge of their whereabouts. They later admitted the laborers had been put into a refugee camp by local police, reported the newspaper.

The Chinese Embassy has been in contact with the local Malaysian police bureau and confirmed that all the 32 Fujian laborers are being detained by the authorities.

The embassy will arrange for a group of laborers to return home to Shandong and Jiangsu tomorrow, said Lu.

Adding: "Then we will make arrangements to help those Fujian laborers to return home.''

"Diplomatic efforts are continuing to help out the stranded laborers,'' said an official with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who declined to be named and reiterated the warning that Malaysia has not opened its labor market, a fact which was publicized on the ministry's website a long time ago.

All those people who seek to work abroad must think carefully and study the labor laws and policies in those countries before acting, he added.

For their part those acting as intermediaries and who organize Chinese laborers to work abroad should provide honest and reliable information, said the official.

The illegal organization of laborers to work overseas has surged in recent years, especially in the coastal areas where foreign trade is booming.

According to China's law on exit-entry across borders, those who illegally organize others to leave the country face jail terms of between two and seven years and fines.

Those convicted of the most serious violations of the law, however, could be sentenced to even longer terms of imprisonment, said Huang Linfeng, a lawyer in Fujian Province.

(China Daily June 24, 2003)

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