Thursday, 19 April 2012

One more Asian country ratifies migrant worker convention!

Indonesia ratifies migrant worker convention

Ridwan Max Sijabat and Margareth Aritonang, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Fri, 04/13/2012 9:00 AM
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The House of Representatives unanimously endorsed a 1990 UN convention protecting migrant workers and their families on Thursday. Ratification of the convention mandates the government to take concrete measures to protect migrant workers amid an increasing number of abuse cases.

Signed by Indonesia in 1993, the United Nations International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families has been ratified by 54 other nations, most of which have sent large numbers of workers overseas.

Under the law endorsing the convention that was passed by the House, Indonesia must integrate the convention into the nation’s laws, including provision to protect, including migrant workers and their families and to ensure their rights. Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa hailed the ratification as ammunition for the government as it bargains with other nations employing Indonesians. “This convention can be a new breakthrough for Indonesia to improve its bargaining power at the global level in order to provide a better protection mechanism for our workers overseas, particularly for those employed in the informal sector,” he said.

Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar said the government would no longer send workers to nations that did not honor the convention. “With the ratification, the government will make the UN convention the legal basis to make bilateral and regional cooperations to end the rampant abuse of our workers employed as domestic helpers,” he said.The government has suspended supplying workers to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Malaysia due to an increasing number of labor abuse cases.

According to Migrant Care, an NGO, 1,075 Indonesian workers died in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia in 2011, 80 percent from abuse or execution for committing major crimes. There are around 6.5 million Indonesians currently working overseas, mostly as domestic helpers, gardeners and construction workers. Around 80 percent work in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia.

Remittances from the workers reached US$8 billion last year, up 10 percent from 2010, according to the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry. Lawmaker Rieke Diah Pitaloka from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) said the ratification created an imperative for the government to revise its regulations in accordance with the convention, including ending the extortion of departing and arriving workers.“The government has to treat migrant workers humanely and stop all extortion of workers during the trip from their home village and at the airports. They are not cash cows.”

Migrant Care executive Anis Hidayah welcomed the ratification, which she said was a starting point for the government to set international standards in providing protection to migrant workers. “The government must decline any proposal from Saudi Arabia and Malaysia if the two countries refuse to provide international protection to our workers,” she said.

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One of the 100 Most Influencial People director of National Domestic Workers Alliance

Ai-jen Poo, Domestic Workers’ Rights Activist, Named One of Time Magazine’s Time 100

National Domestic Workers Alliance Director, Caring Across Generations Co-Director Makes Time’s Annual List of the 100 Most Influential People In The World

TIME named Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, to the 2012 TIME 100, the magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. The full list and related tributes appear in the April 30 issue of TIME, available on newsstands on Thursday, April 19, and now at

Ai-jen’s organizing of domestic workers, including a decade long push for the groundbreaking Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in New York State, earned her the epithet “the Nannies’ Norma Ray” from the New York Times. In 2007 she co-founded the National Domestic Workers Alliance to bring dignity and respect to this growing, yet undervalued, workforce nationally. She is also the co-director of Caring Across Generations (CAG), a national campaign including over 200 advocacy organizations working together for quality jobs and a dignified quality of life for all Americans.

The Time 100 list, now in its ninth year, recognizes the activism, innovation and achievement of the world’s most influential individuals. As TIME Managing Editor Richard Stengel has said of the list in the past, “The TIME 100 is not a list of the most powerful people in the world, it’s not a list of the smartest people in the world, it’s a list of the most influential people in the world. They’re scientists, they’re thinkers, they’re philosophers, they’re leaders, they’re icons, they’re artists, they’re visionaries. People who are using their ideas, their visions, their actions to transform the world and have an effect on a multitude of people.”

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Union support for FDW in Lebanon

Union drafting rules to protect migrant workers

The Daily Star

BEIRUT: The Union of Owners of Workers Recruitment Agencies in Lebanon (SORAL) has begun drafting a code of conduct for its members that is expected to comply with International Labor Organization standards on domestic work and private employment agencies.

SORAL, the ILO for Arab States, and the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights completed a two-day workshop Thursday, during which members of all the groups discussed best practices, relevant international norms and brainstormed ideas for the code of conduct.

The rules will apply to agencies in the union who recruit female migrant domestic workers.

Before this week’s sessions, ILO and U.N. representatives also met with nongovernmental organizations that work with domestic workers, as well as representatives of migrant communities.

SORAL’s members will now develop its code with the help of the ILO.

New programme for FDW in Singapore

SINGAPORE - All first-time foreign domestic workers (FDWs) will have to attend a one-day Settling-In Programme (SIP) from May 1 this year. The SIP will replace the English Entry Test for FDWs and aims to better orientate and equip FDWs with basic knowledge about living and working safely in Singapore.

The programme will be conducted in English or in the FDWs' native languages and cover five modules including an introduction to Singapore, safety in other areas, and relationship and stress management.

These areas are new and previously not covered under the SAC. The current four-hour Safety Awareness Course (SAC) will also be subsumed under the SIP. The Manpower Ministry (MOM) says there will be greater emphasis and time spent on the topic of safety. MOM has also appointed two Accredited Training Providers (ATPs) to conduct the SIP.

They are Grace Management & Consultancy Services Pte Ltd and ECON Careskill Training Centre Pte Ltd. Both ATPs will offer the SIP at S$75. FDWs can attend the SIP with either one of the ATPs. The cost of the SIP will be borne by the FDW employer.

To ensure consistency in content delivery, MOM will provide the training programme and curriculum to the ATPs. Information on the SIP will be available on the MOM website from April 20. Registration for the SIP can be done through the ATPs' websites from April 20 April this year.

MOM says it will closely monitor the SIP after its implementation and fine-tune its content and delivery where necessary, to ensure its relevance and usefulness for FDWs. CHANNEL NEWSASIA

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Overview article on FDWs

Modern Slaves: Domestic Migrant Workers in Kuwait, UAE, Saudi Arabia

Posted on April 04, 2012 by Cecily Hilleary

The newspaper stories are shocking: Man stapled maid several times and left her disfiguredHeated nails hammered into Sri Lankan maidHousemaid plunges to her death from Sharjah towerEthiopian domestic worker beaten on camera commits suicide

Open any newspaper in Lebanon or the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and you will likely find similar stories of domestic workers who have run away or committed suicide as a result of unpaid wages, confinement to the house, lack of food or sleep, exhausting work hours and/or verbal, physical or sexual abuse by their sponsors.

Scope of the Problem

Employment opportunities in the Gulf attract as many as 3 million women from the developing countries of South Asia every year. The International Labor Organization (ILO), a U.N. agency dedicated to workers’ rights, estimates that Arab countries host more than 20 million migrant workers in all, one third of them women coming from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Indonesia, the Philippines and Ethiopia. Typically, these women find jobs through labor recruiters in their home countries. Although some recruitment firms are legitimate, many others are not licensed and have been known to trick women with false promises. Quite often, once these women arrive in their host countries to work as housemaids, they discover that labor laws do not apply to them and that there is little help available if they feel exploited or violated in any way.

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Comments from UFDWR's Eni Lestari

In Hong Kong, a Setback for Domestic-Worker Rights

When Eni Lestari, an Indonesian domestic worker, heard about a ruling that might allow some 300,000 temporary foreign workers to live in Hong Kong permanently, she was thrilled. She likened it to the day in 2000 when she escaped from an abusive employer and learned at a shelter that she would not be deported. “I felt hope,” Eni, 37, said of both occasions. “I didn’t know there was a legal system that helps.”

But for Eni and tens of thousands of other foreign domestic workers living in this semiautonomous Chinese territory, that hope is fading fast — and so is their faith in the legal system. On Wednesday, Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal overturned the ruling. Unlike other foreigners, these workers cannot apply for permanent residency after seven years. The lower court found that unconstitutional, but the Court of Appeal ruled otherwise, saying it was for the state to decide the extent to which permanent residency is granted to foreigners. ”Hong Kong apparently is under the rule of law and a place where you can pursue equality,” said Doris Lee, a representative of worker-support group Open Door. “Yet the government routinely excludes these women.”

International Conference on Labor Exploitation as a Form of Human Trafficking

- Recommendations and Conclusions -

NGO ASTRA – Anti Trafficking Action organized the first international Conference on Labor Exploitation as a Form of Human Trafficking, in Belgrade on March 1 and 2, 2012. The Conference was the first event dedicated to this problem in Serbia. Topics discussed at the conference include workers’ rights, labor exploitation as a form of trafficking in human beings and the improvement of relevant policies in the area of prevention and prosecution, with a special regard to the appropriate identification and treatment of victims of labor exploitation.

The reason for organizing such a conference lays in the fact that labor exploitation as a form of human trafficking has been on the rise in the last couple of years, shown both by ASTRA SOS Hotline data, and the data gathered by other relevant anti-trafficking actors in Serbia. However, this rise has not been accompanied by the appropriate state response. Namely, there are still numerous perplexities and general lack of knowledge of what labor exploitation is and how it should be treated and prosecuted, while assistance and protection programs are not adjusted to the needs of a new category of victims. An upward trend in the number of identified labor exploitation cases has been registered in the rest of Europe, too.

ASTRA’s Conference on Labor Exploitation as a Form of Human Trafficking is the first conference focused on the problem of human trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation in Serbia. It gathered participants from Serbia, Europe and Eurasia – representatives from international organizations, relevant Serbian trade unions, the Ministry of Economy and Regional Development, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, the Labor Inspectorate and the National Employment Service, NGO activists from the country and abroad, lawyers, representatives of the police and prosecutor’s office. Participants were discussing and exchanging experiences about different problems pertaining to labor exploitation and trafficking in human beings and working on formulating recommendations that would contribute to the enhancement of policies in this area.

In October 2011, ASTRA conducted an opinion poll (representative sample comprising 2506 adult citizens of Serbia) and focus group/qualitative survey (five focus groups in which five different groups of stakeholders were questioned separately – the unemployed, students, the employed, trade unions and public servants and persons employed with the National Employment Service, employment agencies and youth cooperatives) examining citizens’ perception of labor exploitation. The surveys were conducted within EU supported project “Make it Work” and their results were presented at the beginning of the conference. According to the surveys, the citizens of Serbia understand labor exploitation as poor working conditions and violation of labor legislation in a transitional economy; when they observe labor exploitation in the context of human trafficking, the respondents mostly see it as something far away from their lives and their reality, although a large percentage of them report that they themselves have received suspicious job offers or that their friends or relatives have experienced labor exploitation. Finally, men are in no way perceived as potential/possible victims of trafficking.

In the first session, Natalia Hofman from the ILO Moscow office talked about practical aspects of fight against human trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation, while Jereon Beirnaert from the International Trade Union Confederation discussed the role of trade unions in combating trafficking in human beings. The session was concluded by Olivera Otašević who presented ASTRA’s experience and practice in providing assistance to victims of labor exploitation. In the session focusing on judicial practice in combating forced labor as a form of human trafficking, Joanna Dabrowska-Samsel and Ernest Samsel, lawyers from Poland talked about their practice of representing victims of labor exploitation, whilst Alovsat Aliev from the Azerbaijan Migration Center and Zoran Stojkov, lawyer from Belgrade, talked about the SerbAz case from the perspective of NGOs in Serbia and Azerbaijan that were involved in the case. Finally, Hoang Do Duy, activist from the Czech Republic presented the tree workers case in this country. In the third session, Klara Skrivankova from Anti Slavery International talked about forced labor across borders and its links to major sporting events, Victoria Kyzym from La Strada Ukraine discussed the problem of labor exploitation from the point of view of a direct victim assistance provider, while Astrid Ganterer from OSCE/ODIHR talked about challenges in relation to human trafficking throughout the OSCE region. The moderators were Madis Vainomaa, independent expert, Munir Podumljak from the partnership for Social Development, Croatia and Tamara Vukasović from ASTRA.


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