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| Tuesday, 16 October 2018 |
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Protecting Indonesia`s Labor Force Overseas  
In the Nunukan District on the Indonesia-Malaysia border, the Mgr. Gabriel Manek Foundation helps the children of migrant workers pursue formal education. Photo: Private Doc
Wednesday, 21 March, 2018 | 18:44 WIB
Protecting Indonesia`s Labor Force Overseas  

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Illegal recruitment has been one of the root causes for problems faced by Indonesian migrant workers overseas. According to a report on Indonesia’s labor overseas by World Bank economist Ririn Salwa Purnamasari, as many as 50 percent of the around nine million Indonesian migrant workers in 2016 did not have proper documents. Some were recruited illegally while the rest chose to ignore their expired contracts, making these workers vulnerable to unfair treatment by employers and arrests by local authorities.

Many institutions are now working to overcome these issues, among others the manpower and transmigration ministry, which has launched the Desmigratif (Productive Migrant Village) program in ‘migrant worker’ villages such as Pangkalan Kongsi in West Kalimantan. Recruited former migrant workers help inform villagers on how to legally work as a migrant worker for their own protection. Meanwhile, in the Nunukan District on the Indonesia-Malaysia border, the Mgr. Gabriel Manek Foundation helps the children of migrant workers pursue formal education. In commemoration of National Workers’ Day on February 20, Tempo English reports.

Safer Channels For Migrant Workers 

The manpower and transmigration ministry is working to reduce the number of illegal migrant workers. One tool is the Productive Migrant Village program in 122 villages.

HAIRIYAH, whose husband has been in poor health and can no longer work as a farmer, is determined to work overseas so that her three children can go to school. Like hundreds of her neighbors in the Pangkalan Kongsi village in Sambas, West Kalimantan, Hairiyah is very tempted to try working in Malaysia. "I need to provide for my family," said the 34-year-old woman.

There was a time when she seriously considered crossing the border illegally. In 2014, her husband had managed to cross the border with help from a broker. At the time, the fee was RM1,000, to be deducted from his salary as a plantation worker. Hairiyah saw the fee as reasonable-the travel time between her village and the city of Miri in Malaysia is, after all, only two hours.

But in late 2017, Hairiyah received a visit from Rusnah, her neighbor. Rusnah, a former migrant worker, works as one of the two Productive Migrant Village (Desmigratif) officers stationed at the village hall. She explained to Hairiyah the entire procedure for a legal departure to work as a migrant worker, from the village-level administrative process to placement. "I’ve made up my mind to go legally next year," said Hairiyah.

She believes that complying with proper procedure would give her legal certainty as a migrant worker, something that she will need, as migrant workers are vulnerable to such abhorrences as sexual violence, abuse and even homicide.

Hairiyah, who plans to seek employment as a domestic worker in Malaysia, says she does not wish to work in fear and wants to prioritize her safety for the sake of her family. Plus, she said, she can’t afford to deal with the Malaysian police, who perform surprise inspections to find illegal migrant workers.

"I don’t want to be like my husband. He often had to hide because he had no legal documents," she said. "The job is tough and I can’t afford to be on the run." Hairiyah’s husband left Malaysia about two years ago.

THE Desmigratif program, launched in 2016, has reached 122 ‘migrant worker’ villages in 60 regencies across Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan, as well as East and West Nusa Tenggara. If an additional 130 villages participate in the program this year, the program is expected to reach 450 villages by mid-2019. Other villages that wish to join may declare their participation next year. 

Read more inspiring Outreach stories in Tempo English Weekly Magazine

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