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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