The Coalition of Indonesian Women for Justice and Democracy (KPIKD) has criticized the proposed Indonesian migrant workers protection bill for not stipulating protection against rights violations abroad.
The bill, which will replace Law No. 39/2004 on the placement and protection of migrant Indonesian workers abroad, is currently in the deliberation process at the House of Representatives.

KPIKD secretary-general Dian Kartikasari said during a discussion on Sunday that the draft had 34 articles stipulating the protection of the workers prior to their departure and three articles about protection during their working tenure abroad.

However, those articles mainly focus on administrative procedures and mechanisms, such as arrival processes and job placements.

“It doesn’t say anything about how to deal with violations of workers’ rights, such as exploitation, sexual harassment, placement periods and, most importantly, debt issues involving a number of PJTKI [migrant worker suppliers],” Dian said.

Data from rights group Migrant Care showed that by the end of 2014, 1.5 million migrant workers out of a total of 6.5 million working overseas had experienced various rights violations, ranging from being unpaid, or suffering rape and harassment, to being trafficked.

Most violations took place in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, where there are 1.5 million and 2.4 million Indonesian migrant workers, respectively, according to the data.

“The draft should contain specific articles mandating protection for migrant workers. Otherwise, it would be useless and, still, the condition of our workers abroad will not get better,” she said.

The draft, Dian said, should adopt the mandate of the UN’s 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), as well as International Labor Organization Convention No. 189, to guarantee the workers’ rights.

Other data from Migrant Care has revealed that up to 281 migrant Indonesian workers are facing the death penalty in 2015, 59 of them have been sentenced to death and 219 others are currently undergoing legal proceedings.

Malaysia is the location of the largest number of Indonesian migrant workers who are facing the death penalty this year, accounting for 212 people. Around 36 workers are facing the same fate in Saudi Arabia.

Irma Suryani Chaniago, a member of House Commission IX overseeing labor affairs and health, acknowledged that the draft was weak and had yet to accommodate what the migrant Indonesian workers really needed.

She, then, pledged to consider and propose the KPIKD’s recommendations to the House.

“We, indeed, still need many recommendations for the draft. No need to worry because we still have time for the revision process,” Irma said.

She went on to say that all this time the government had only looked upon the migrant workers as economic commodities, while in fact, they were heroes and heroines of foreign exchange.

Data from the National Team for the Acceleration of Poverty Alleviation (TNP2K) showed that remittances from migrant workers during January to June this year alone amounted to US$3.8 billion, making them the second largest contributor to Indonesia’s foreign exchange earnings after oil and gas. (foy) – The Jakarta Post, December 01 2015