KUALA LUMPUR: Lured by the promise of working on cruise ships, a group of Nepalis spent thousands of ringgit to enrol in a local college but ended up being stranded here, earning pittance as interns.
Most of them feared being arrested as they did not even have their passports, which were supposedly sent to the Immigration Department for visa extensions.
More than 80 Nepalese have become such victims and those who got back their passports have since returned home â€“ without any full refunds on their fees.
Raju, 33, is one such victim. He gave up his job in a pharmaceutical company in Nepal, left his wife and infant son, to enrol in the â€œexclusiveâ€ Certificate in Cruise Operation Management course conducted by Lence Academy.
â€œI wanted to give my family a good future and a good life,â€ he told The Star at his dingy apartment in Puchong recently
While in Nepal, he had seen newspaper advertisements guaranteeing jobs aboard cruise liners that paid in US dollars, which applicants could get if they signed up for the course.
Among the advertisers was Oxon Institute & Consultancy, a company that worked with Lence Academy to enrol the Nepalese.
Like the others, Raju who arrived in October last year on a six-month student visa, believed that he would be interning at a five-star hotel or a fine dining restaurant before being hired by a cruise liner company.
Instead, he was sent by Greencity International College â€“ a sister company of Lence Academy that shared the same address â€“ to work in a small restaurant here as a general worker.
He said the students were told that their internships would run on days when there were no classes. Frustrated, he joined some of his coursemates to work as interns in a pub.
By May, Raju was still working in the pub and despite several cruise job interviews and promises from the college, he was none the nearer in landing his dream job.
Balram, 24, said several students were sent for multiple interviews with cruise companies.
â€œNone got a chance to work,â€ he said.
Another student, Rajendra, 24, said an agent linked to the college took him and several others to intern at a pub.
He said when they objected, wanting a hotel internship as promised, they were told that they must pass a hotel recruitment process.
â€œI started the internship at the pub two months ago and I was told to start all over again if I stopped,â€ he said.
Rajendra said he and the others worked in pubs for at least up to 12 hours a day, five times a week, and were only paid between RM700 and RM800 a month.
When he demanded in May to be sent home, he was told to apply for a special pass to go back and given only about 10% of the RM18,230 in fees that he paid to the college last year.
Raju said he borrowed money from friends and family and going home empty-handed was not justified and shameful.
â€œWhat am I going to tell them back home?â€
Dharmalal, 25, said his brother and fellow student Narayan, 28, had gone missing for more than a month. â€œI fear that he could be in a detention centre for not having any legal documents.â€
Following complaints against Greencity International College, previously known as the Orange International College in November last year, Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan was quoted as saying that the claims were being investigated.
However, there has not been any indication on the outcome of the probe so far.
When contacted, the collegeâ€™s assistant marketing manager Celine Ong said foreign students were only given â€œjob opportunitiesâ€ and not â€œjob guaranteesâ€ after they had completed their course.Â MYNEWSHUB/The Star
*Names of students have been changed to protect their identities.