Anita Rachman & Nurfika Osman
A government agency tasked with protecting migrant workers called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday to grant papers to illegal Indonesian workers to afford them better protection rights.
Muhammad Jumhur Hidayat, head of the National Agency for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Overseas Workers, or BNP2TKI, said that 1.5 million out of six million Indonesian workers overseas were working illegally and many of them had been abused by employers.
“We have to afford them the highest protection. We urge the Foreign Affairs Ministry to cooperate with us in dealing with this problem,” Jumhur said. “For example, 80,000 workers in Syria do not have any workers’ rights. We cannot allow this to continue.”
With legal documents, workers will be entitled to their rights, such as insurance and access to relatives.
“Their agents should provide them with insurance as it is regulated in the Law on Placement and Protection of Indonesian Overseas Workers,” Jumhur said.
Jumhur said that many migrant workers were dismissed without severance pay. Migrants are often easy targets for abuse because they lack the education and the experience to protect themselves, he said.
Most illegal workers, he said, went overseas without registering with BNP2TKI and the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration.
He said that only the Foreign Affairs Ministry could grant them the legal documents. “House Speaker Agung Laksono helped us by sending a letter to Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda on Dec.15 to give diplomatic status to our attaches overseas so that they can fight for the rights of illegal workers.”
Teguh Wardoyo, the director of the protection of Indonesians overseas at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, said the agency was always prepared to grant legal documents to overseas workers.
“In 2007, the Foreign Affair Ministry granted legal documents to 5,000 illegal workers,” Teguh said.
However, he also said there were many issues that should be solved in Indonesia before placing workers overseas.