Monday, 11 October 2010

“Protect migrant workers, not recruitment agencies”

Press Release
10 October 2010
Indonesian migrants condemn Consulate in HK for neglect of victims of exorbitant fees

“Evidently, the Indonesian Consulate has sided with the recruitment agencies instead of serving and protecting Indonesian migrants in Hong Kong. They have openly refused to assist victims of cases of high agency fees and have continued to allow recruitment agencies to harass Indonesian migrants, their employers and families back home.”

This was declared by Eni Lestari, coordinator of United Indonesians Against Overcharging or PILAR as more than 350 Indonesian migrants trooped to the Indonesian Consulate from East Point Road in Causeway Bay to protest its continued indulgence of recruitment agencies in extorting exorbitant fees from Indonesian migrant workers in Hong Kong. The group also hit the policy of the Indonesian government of forcing them to go through recruitment agencies each time they process their contract in spite of the gross exploitation committed repeatedly by the agencies.

The protesters demanded that all Indonesian migrants in Hong Kong be allowed to process their contracts directly and to stop exorbitant fees charged by agencies.

“We are not only made to pay HK$21,000 when we first arrive in HK but we are overcharged repeatedly. To make matters worse, the Indonesian government has denied our right to direct hiring and the consulate has openly refused to help victims of exorbitant fees. When will the government genuinely protect us?” she remarked.

She explained that the Indonesian government has institutionalized the HK$21,000 agency fee that should be paid by Indonesian migrants through five to seven months’ salary deduction. Furthermore, she reported that PILAR has received a lot of complaints from Indonesian migrants who are charged the same amount even if they process their contract while they are already here in Hong Kong. Some of their cases are as follows:
  • Indah Soekesi worked in Hong Kong for eight years before she decided to go back to Indonesia. Five months later, she decided to apply to a recruitment agency in order to work in Hong Kong again. As she speaks fluent Chinese already, she was not required to undergo training with the recruitment agency and she stayed in her own house to wait for her new employer. However, when she arrived she was told that she needed to pay HK$21,000 or her job will be cancelled. After five months of paying the fees (HK$15,000 in total), she decided to stop paying. Since then she and her employer have been harassed by the agency and financing company. She approached the consulate for help but the staff said that they could not help because she signed a loan agreement.
  • Nurul Istikomah worked for three months before her contract was terminated and her last entitlements were taken by her agency. Despite her 14 days of visa, the agency just sent her back immediately to Indonesia and refused to help her find a new job. From the HK Airport, she run away and found her second agency where she was made to pay another four months (HK$12,000) for her second job. However her first agency still chased her and forced her family to pay the outstanding fees equivalent to three months salary (HK$9,000). Her father was hostaged by the recruitment agency in Indonesia when he refused to pay the money for his daughter.
“When our job is threatened, the Consulate does nothing to protect us and our livelihood. Consulate staff and officials even blame us for our predicament and force us to pay the agency. What kind of Consulate is this that allows its own people to get harassed and exploited?” Lestari lamented.

The group reported assisting 19 Indonesians who have cases against recruitment agencies and 15 of them filed formal complaints to Indonesian consulate starting early of this year. They demanded the consulate to stop harassment of agency and financing companies, terminate loan agreements Indonesians are forced to sign to pay for exorbitant fees, and assist those who have claims against agencies. However out of that number, only one person got a small part of her money back, three got their loan agreement terminated but the rest has remained unattended. Ten of victims joined the PILAR rally today.

“By acting as the spokesperson of recruitment agencies, the government is treating us like modern slaves whom they can continue exploiting. By openly refusing to handle such cases, the Consulate clearly stands at the side of recruitment agencies at the expense of Indonesian migrants who already have to contend with their negligible services to those in need,” Lestari stated.

Lestari said that the demand of IMWs is to allow for direct processing of contracts in order to free IMWs from the “greed” of agencies. The group committed to continue educating and mobilizing the Indonesian migrants to stop paying the high agency fees and file cases to the Indonesian Consulate and even relevant Hong Kong government agencies for agency malpractices.

“We vow to fight. For once, the Consulate must stand up to what is beneficial to migrant workers. Else, it will just prove that they are more for profits than for the rights of migrants,” she concluded.

Reference: Eni Lestari, Coordinator (852) 96081475 Umi Sudarto, Coordinator (852) 96012454


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