Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - Activists have criticised the Indonesian government and House of Representatives for failing to provide protection to migrant workers employed overseas in the proposed amendments to the 2004 law on migrant workers.
Migrant Care executive director Anis Hidayah said yesterday that the draft bill carried no provisions that would protect migrant workers from illegal practices committed by recruiting companies.
"The lawmakers appear to forget that it is these companies that extort migrant workers. The draft bill is void [of articles] on the issue and carries no provision on how migrant workers should be treated according to the 1990 United Nations Convention on International Migrant Workers," Hidayah said yesterday.
Hidayah also said that the 25 million rupiah (US$2,614) that workers had to pay before their departure was too high.
The House endorsed a 1990 UN convention protecting migrant workers and their families in April. The endorsement is expected to give the Indonesian government equal footing in negotiations with receiving countries.
Eni Lestari of the Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers in Hong Kong said most problems affecting migrant workers resulted from bureaucratic red tape.
"The government wants to send as many workers as possible because of the remittances, but it is reluctant to ensure our safety and always shifts the blame to recruiting companies," she said, adding that Indonesian missions abroad also did little to help workers.
"Often when we face problems and file complaints with the Indonesian Consulate, they tell us to file complaints with the private agencies, which ultimately ignore our grievances," Lestari said.
She also said that the government had failed to establish a standardised training regimen for migrant workers bound for abroad.
"Almost 70 per cent of the training that we get in Indonesia is useless in the destination countries," Lestari said.
Lestari said that what workers needed the most was knowledge on legal issues and social conditions in the countries of destination.
"Zero knowledge on those issues definitely affects them psychologically," she added.
According to the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry, remittances from overseas workers reached US$8 billion last year, up 10 per cent from 2010, which came from about 6.5 million workers.
Lawmaker Poempida Hidayatullah of House Commission IX overseeing labour, who is also member of the House working committee on amending the Migrant Worker Law, said that what caused the problems was lack of coordination between the Agency for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers, the Foreign Ministry and the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry.
"The protection system and the mechanism for the placement of workers need to be improved," Hidayatullah said.