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The man kneading the dough for roti canai at the mamak restaurant does his task as if he is an expert. But he had no formal training and upon arrival from Bangladesh three years ago, he learnt his skills on the job.

At another restaurant, the cook stands before the hot stove and prepares Hokkien mee. He had never heard of the dish nor tasted it until his arrival from Myanmar two years ago.

At the nasi lemak stall, the man who is cooking up a storm with his special sambal is Indonesian. He packs food for takeaways and until the recent Covid-19-imposed movement control order, he also worked as a waiter.

These three are examples of the thousands of foreign workers who have landed on our shores hoping to be given opportunities to earn a living. But most of them are working illegally.

Having entered the country without valid documentation or on student visas, they are at the mercy of employers who compel them to work for up to 14 hours a day with no rest days or holidays.

Each of them has a story to tell - a story of how...

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