Six migrant workers were repatriated to Cambodia on Wednesday after being arrested and imprisoned in Malaysia, where reports that employers were abusing their domestic workers prompted Prime Minister Hun Sen to ban maids from going to the country in 2011.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement that five Cambodians were due to return on Wednesday with help from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and that another 13 would soon follow.
A spokesman for the ministry could not be reached. However, Brett Dickson, the IOM’s Cambodia program officer, said the organization brought back six workers on Wednesday and that the government had not requested its help in repatriating any others.
He declined to discuss the circumstances under which the migrants were returning.
At Phnom Penh International Airport, where the migrants landed on Wednesday afternoon, Him Sariphors said she had left for Malaysia about six months ago to work as a cleaner and that she did not know why she was arrested and brought back.
Ms. Sariphors’ mother said her daughter’s passport had expired.
Malaysia and Cambodia agreed to resume the maid trade in December, although the Labor Ministry said the details would have to be worked out before Cambodians could actually resume going to Malaysia for domestic work legally.
Recruiters say the time needed to train maids means that legal migration might not resume until 2017.