Migrant workers unaware
of their rights, say activists

Labor watchdogs say limited access to information on the rights and protection of migrant workers is one of the reasons behind the rampant exploitation and marginalization that workers face.

Law No. 14 / 2008 on the freedom of information stipulates the public has the right to access information from the government.

However, Muhammad Irsyadul Ibad, the executive director of the Institute for Education Development, Social, Religious and Cultural Studies, said that migrant workers did not have the most basic information related to their livelihoods. “They don’t even know about the amount of salary that their employees are obliged to give,” Muhammad said.

“The BNP2TKI [National Agency for the Placement and Protection of Overseas Labor] has never informed these workers of their rights to be protected by the state, let alone the mechanism of migrant worker
protection,” he added.

Anwar Ma’arif from the Assembly of Indonesian Migrant Workers said the government was also reluctant to disclose documents on the use of the budget for worker protection programs. “The Manpower and Transmigration Ministry has never responded to our requests. When we call them, they always say they have sent the documents by mail. But we’ve never received the documents,” Anwar said.

“The government has a huge budget for the protection of migrant workers yet we continue to witness abuse,” Anwar added.

This year, the ministry allocated Rp 200 billion (US$ 20,6 million) to the protection of workers. “We suspect that this budget has been misused,” Anwar said.

Anies Hidayah of Migrant Care, an NGO that focuses on migrant labor issues, said that on many occasions, the Indonesian consulate generals did not maintain communication with migrant workers.

“Because of this, they are often too late in solving the workers’ problems. Due to this sluggishness, workers face numerous problems, like the case of Fatimah, who faced capital punishment in Saudi Arabia in 2011,” Anies said.

Because of the lack of communication signified by a lack of access to information, migrant workers are prone to even more exploitation overseas.

Muhammad said workers often did not know what to do in the face of problems. “How can they solve their problems when they do not have access to clear information about the rights they are entitled to?” he said.

Muhammad cited the problems workers faced in relation to overseas employment cards (KTKLN). “They won’t be able to return home if they fail to show the KTKLN in the immigration office or at the airport. Sometimes, these workers have decided not to come home at all because they don’t have the KTKLN and don’t know how to get the card issued,” Muhammad said. (ogi)

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