Stories of migrant workers being abused or killed by their employers or facing legal problems while abroad have been common in recent years.
The government has taken steps to address the issue, but violence against migrant workers continues to make headlines. The nation was recently shocked by the beheading of Ruyati, a migrant worker in Saudi Arabia who was accused of killing a Saudi Arabian woman with a machete.
The law did not specify which party should protect migrant workers, Prasetyohadi said. Article 5 of the law stipulates that the government is responsible for protecting the workers, but Article 82 puts the responsibility on the agencies who sent them abroad.
A lack of knowledge about the problems migrant workers faced made it harder for the government to provide better protection, he said. It is estimated that of 450,000 workers sent abroad annually, 25,000 faced various physical or labor rights abuses.
Prasetyo hadi added that prolonged abuse of Indonesian migrant workers was due to their lack of knowledge of their legal rights. The government did not provide them with the necessary knowledge or skills relevant to their jobs and their placement nations, he said.
Hubert Gijzen, director and representative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said the government needed to give honest, straightforward information so the workers could go abroad prepared and with realistic expectations.
“Many migrant workers step on the plane with wrong expectations. They expect that they are going to face a wonderful world with easy work and life,” said Gijzen. He said that the government needed to assist migrant workers because the burden was too heavy for them.
“Especially if they get into legal problems in a foreign country and they don’t know the legal system, they definitely need help. And yet most of the migrant workers feel very much alone,” Gijzen said.
Hikmahanto Juwana, a law expert from the University of Indonesia, said the government never treated the migrant workers as human beings. “The government only sees them as names,” he said at the two-day seminar. Hikmahanto added that the government never considered migrant workers to be people with families and hopes. (drs)