Our New Book on Modern Slavery

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Our new book, written in Indonesian, launched this month, consists of, first, the so-called “academic text” (naskah akademik) introducing to the legal draft of the district regulation and, second, the text of the legal draft itself on the protection of Indonesian migrant workers at district areas, and finally lessons learned notes upon the advocacy activities that we have experienced in three districts of Tulang Bawang in Lampung province, Banyumas in C. Java, and Jember in E. Java.

See the cover’s picture at previous posting. You may want to contact us to get this book. Our email: ecosoc@cbn.net.id or ecosocrights@gmail.com.

We establish the academic text and the legal draft on our research on the condition of the migrant workers in the three districts. We conduct all the action research activities from February to November 2007 along with our partner of Trade Union Rights Center. The European Commission that maintains strong commitment to promote the advancement of basic human rights has made all of the activities possible.

The research applies several methods, i.e. first, workshops to dig out the main problems inviting related stakeholders: local government, migrant workers organizations, former migrant workers and their families, recruitment and placement agencies, academicians and NGOs, second, focused group discussions involving the origin community of the migrant workers and the village administration officials, third, surveys on the migrant workers and their families, fourth, theme interviews with related stakeholders like local government officials, recruitment or placement agencies, former migrant workers and their families, NGOs and other related social organizations; fifth, desk reviews on problems of the migrant workers and their legal protection framework, and sixth, public policy analysis that includes regulations for migrant workers that have been enacted by several districts in the country.

Out of the research we conclude there are at least seven problems of the migrant workers in their origin districts that should be guaranteed with legal protections. The problems deem to be the roots that cause diverse cases befallen to them including those taken place in the work places overseas. The problems relate to recruitment process, the financing of the work migration, education and training, case handling and legal aids, public participation, reintegration and at last the data recording and monitoring activities. These problems are proposed to be the main materials for protecting migrant workers at district level. If these are properly tackled, we expect that their problems and diverse cases that migrant workers face during their overseas works at least be significantly reduced to the minimum level.

The academic draft and the legal draft in this book have been thoroughly discussed in several important fora at the select districts and also by legal experts either at the districts or nationally. We have also drawn common ground that may include other districts that are not selected in the research. Yet for the complexity of the migrant workers’ problems and the diversity of the districts’ condition we could not include less-closely-related specific problems at district level, less their attempts to solution in the legal draft. Even so, the migrant worker-origin districts generally face the same main problems once they ponder upon protecting the overseas workers.

With the academic text and the legal draft in this book, we would like to invite all concern parties, particularly the governments, to change the protection paradigm, from merely tackling the problems into preventing them. It is because mostly, including the Indonesian government admits that over 60 percent of the Indonesian overseas workers are recruited and placed, let’s say, illegally, and that as much as 80 percent of the problems of overseas workers refer to problems found within the country, not at destination countries as most perceived.

This means the existing system of protection and work placement of the overseas workers is prone to creating and ‘inciting’ diverse problems while they are already in destination countries. In fact while they are overseas, they could expect only less protection from receiving countries. This condition is triggered by the fact that none of receiving countries ratify the Convention of Protection for Migrant Workers and Their Families and therefore they rest their destiny on the personal benevolence of the placement agencies and the employers, something that you should not depend on for public matters. Hope goes back then to the Indonesian government. Therefore, there are few other ways but repairing our home’s system of protection and overseas work placement that inevitably lies heavily on the government’s shoulders. However, to put proper measure to function, no doubt we need partnership and responsibility of all related parties, particularly the governments, agencies, and the people that include the migrant workers organizations and their families, NGOs, academicians, and other institutions that work for the interests of migrant workers.

Our study reveals that district regulation for protecting migrant workers will not answer the real problems if there is no inter-district framework intact. Current recruitment process is seriously susceptible to fraud conducted in other neighboring districts that have less concerns to protection. As a result, document falsification is the most crucial problem faced by would-be overseas workers. This takes place because most agencies are found in the country’s capital of Jakarta, far away from origin districts, and they mostly depend on the work of the brokers in recruiting would-be workers in the provinces, down to the districts and remote villages.

A district regulation will not also tackle the problems if there is no partnership, co-ordination and common responsibility, either among government officials of related divisions, between central government and local governments, and among local governments themselves. It is because that in fact the protection of migrant workers has not been acknowledged as a common problem, the treatment of which demands commonly accepted perspectives apart from partnership and common responsibility.

This effort and the improvement of protection and work placement services are exigently not to procrastinate because the number of the migrant workers is ever increasing as international work market competition sores, while we realize the weakness of government services as compared to the vast, remote areas of countries of origin of our overseas workers. It is also a staggering fact that their remittances, eventually for the benefit of the state and the local development program, swiftly increase by years. Without such contribution of migrant workers, the government should have already kept in mind that they are obliged to protect their citizens including our migrant workers. The demand of such obligation then is even imperative, while realizing the increasing remittances. But such high contribution has not been matched by proper public services and protection. Recent aggravation of irregular recruitment and overseas work placement clearly specify the insufficient protection scheme of the governments, even in many cases they perform as ones like. These practices have opened widely to human trafficking and modern slavery. Failure to perform proper protection is no different from legally allowing trafficking in human being and modern slavery for our own children mostly young women.**

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