Indonesia to set up a task force to monitor the movement of foreigners
Marguerite Afra Sapiie
The Jakarta Post
The government is set to revamp its oversight system on foreigners amid growing concern of foreigners exploiting their visas to work in the country illegally.
Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto said on Friday that the government would set up a task force to monitor the movement of foreigners entering the country’s borders.
“The monitoring [under the task force] will ensure foreigners who enter and move across Indonesia do not have a hidden agenda, such as working illegally, or even committing terror acts and being involved in the illegal drug trade,” Wiranto told reporters following a meeting with relevant ministers at his office.
The task force would function to fill the gap in the current oversight system, which focused on monitoring foreigners when they entered Indonesian borders, yet gradually lost control when they moved to other areas, Wiranto added.
The minister said the task force would empower local administrations, which already have their own monitoring system, to step up oversight of foreigners living in the regions.
National Police deputy chief Comr. Gen. Syafruddin confirmed the function of the task force was similar to the foreigner oversight (POA) team under the auspices of the National Police.
The team was set up under the Soeharto regime but disbanded by the 2011 Immigration Law, which curtails the police’s authority to oversee foreigners.
Syafruddin said the police would now be involved in monitoring foreigners, but they would be under the coordination of the chief security office.
The decision to establish such a task force comes following a crackdown on foreigners violating visas in Indonesia in recent months. Data from the Law and Human Rights Ministry’s Directorate General of Immigration revealed that in 2016, 7,787 foreigners, 1,837 of whom were Chinese, were punished for violating immigration regulations.
The crackdown has sparked a rumor that 10 million Chinese people have been working illegally in the country. President Joko ‘‘Jokowi’’ Widodo has repeatedly rebuffed the rumor, which government officials said was aimed at stoking anti-Chinese sentiment in the country and to discredit the current administration.
According to Manpower Ministry data, the total number of foreign workers officially employed in Indonesia as of November 2016 stands at 74,183 people, 21,271 of whom are Chinese.
Manpower Minister M. Hanif Dhakiri asserted that the number of illegal foreign workers in the country was not that significant compared to the official ones, saying that from the crackdown last year, the ministry and relevant authorities had arrested at least 800 foreigners working illegally.
He said his ministry would also intensify its oversight system in accordance to the existing scheme, in which inspections of companies employing foreign workers were carried out both periodically and in response to reports of suspicious activities involving foreigners.
“We will continuously improve our monitoring, but the public should also stop fussing over the matter. It’s true that there are problems [related to illegal foreign workers], but don’t create a hyperbolic issue over that,” Hanif said.
(Read also: Indonesia to review free-visa policy)
Foreign visitors wait at a visa-on-arrival payment counter at an airport(Antara/Nyoman Budhiana)
Meanwhile, Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly said the significant number of foreign workers in Indonesia, including Chinese, corresponded to the fact that foreign investors in the country’s industrial sector wanted their own citizens to also work on the field, as they had special specifications.
“Gradually, there will be location training [by foreigners] so that [Indonesian workers] can take over the factory because technology transfer is required,” Yasonna said, adding that a regulation on the matter would be further strengthened under the Industry Ministry domain.
Yasonna further rebuffed suggestions that President Jokowi’s signature free-visa policy, which initially aimed to attract 20 million foreign tourists annually by 2019, had contributed to the rising number of illegal foreign workers in the country — those who first entered with tourists visa.
However, Yasonna’s office is also set to review the free-visa policy amid concerns that among the 174 countries enjoying Indonesia’s visa waiver, there were several small countries that had not contributed to the increasing number of visitors to Indonesia.
Wiranto concurred with Yasonna, saying that an evaluation of the list of countries enjoying the free-visa policy was important to ensure the policy had not opened the door for foreigners to work illegally
in the country.
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