KOTA KINABALU: All they wanted was to find a greener pasture, although it means leaving their loved ones behind for a period of time.
Coming from a poor family in Kudat, two Sabahan men sought advice from a friend who is working in Korea.
Hoping to ease their family’s burden, the two men decided to try their luck and enrolled in a supposedly recruitment agency for jobs abroad.
Not long after, their prayers were “answered”, and the two hopeful Sabahans believed they had hit the jackpot when their applications went through.
But it came with a hefty price – about RM10,000 per person for their return air tickets, and processing fees, including Visa applications.
The lucrative offer was too hard to resist, and the duo worked hard to raise the money with hopes to secure a well-paid job to provide better life for their family back home.
Finally, on December 9, both David, 41, and Franky, 27, (not their real names) boarded the plane for London, where they were given strict instructions – to wait for the agent to pick them up at the airport upon arrival.
After arriving at the Heathrow Airport, both men had mixed feelings – sad because they had to leave their loved ones behind; excited to be at a new place, but also anxious because they were uncertain of their fate in foreign land.
But they brushed the feelings aside and decided to focus on their new “adventure”.
They sat patiently at the airport, waiting for the promised phone call from the so-called agent to take them to their workplace.
They began to feel uncomfortable as hours turned to days with no one coming to fetch them.
Finally, they went to the authorities and received a shocking news – they came to the United Kingdom with tourist visas and were not allowed to work at all, while their return air tickets were non-existence, and the recruitment agency does not exist.
With very little money to spare in their wallets, they shared a hotel room. And the long wait at the airport before returning to their hotel room became a routine. On the fourth day, they ran out of money.
“They finally sought help and contacted a family mmeber that was currently residing in Australia. A Sabahan lady from Australia wrote to the Sabahan Abroad UK (SAUK) via Facebook Messenger.
“We were on our feet immediately after reading their plight. Working as professionals in the UK, Leona, Nelda and I rearranged works and prioritise to meet our fellow Sabahans currently stranded at the airport,” said SAUK president, Alfred Raymond Edward, when contacted via WhatsApp.
Edward said when they finally met, the duo were hungry and tired, plus embarrassed that they came in such a situation.
“We quickly offered them food, and gathered information on their backgrounds and how they ended up here (London). Apparently, they were asked by the agency to tell that they’re teachers back home, hence the tourist Visas.”
Both men requested to be sent home, but unfortunately, the cost to fly out from London in December is very expensive, due to the long Christmas to New Year’s holidays.
“While SAUK provided food and accommodation, and connecting them to Malaysia Embassy via Sabah-born Malaysian Diplomatic Officer, Jesse Quiban, in London, and with the help of their family and friends, we managed to raise enough funds to buy their air tickets home.
“This only shows that Sabahans do stand up for our own fellow friends when in trouble.
“The duo had requested to go back together, and they are boarding the next flight home to Kota Kinabalu today (December 15), just in time for Christmas with their loved ones,” said Edward.
Edward added that two of SAUK’s members, Nelda Hendon and Victoria Payne, had also agreed to host David and Franky while they were in the UK.
“This is the first time SAUK encountered such a case, but we do believe there are more victims out there, involving not just our fellow Sabahans, but Malaysians.
“Our advice to fellow Sabahans and Malaysians who wish to work abroad, before embarking on a new adventure, it is very important to read and understand all the terms and requirements to work in any particular country,” he advised.
He said there are so many opportunists out who are interested to just milk their victims’ hard earned money.
Please be extremely careful and SAUK wished that you would not fall for too good to be true offers, he said , adding: “Always check for any possible hidden agenda.”