How should we look at "illegal migration" between Indonesia and Malaysia?

Standar

Sri Palupi

Certain individuals among the Indonesian government officials indeed would like to have a better country, including on how overseas work should be managed. Such individual would show that there is a hope for change, like what we recently see how the Indonesian ambassador for Malaysia, former police general Da’i Bachtiar, indicates that he is not unaware that “illegal migrant workers are too many”. However, others see what the ambassador does is far from their expectation. Different responses appear in a mailing list on the appalling condition of the Indonesian migrant workers, particularly from among critical individuals, with the ending that such government official seem to asking all parties to work together.

Our law on the protection of migrant workers, however, has yet to include a stipulation that authorizes independent representatives of the interests of the workers be legally guaranteed of significant participation in the making of the public policies of manpower export management. The main problem apparently lies in whether we still consider those undocumented migrant workers be also the subjects of protection. Up to now, the law does not mention anything about them, while in fact, as the ambassador admits, they are “too many”. What would you respond? Here is one worth reading.

Many would eventually resort into victimizing those workers, while in fact, Indonesian migrant workers, either they are illegal or legal, have made the same economic benefits, either for Malaysia or Indonesia. Both therefore deserve protection. They strive fThey have sent back home foreign exchanges either for central government or at district or at provincial levels and, of course, for their families. We could not thereby half-heartedly look upon illegal migrant workers. This should have been tackled out of its problem roots.

It is virtually the results of the misguiding public policies of the governments. There are so many reasons that induce them into becoming illegal. Many of them choose to be illegal for having no money and other resources. Many of them are illegal for being cheated by the agencies, be they recruitment or placement, or by the employers. Many of them become illegal as a result of their efforts to escape from forced servitude. In short, illegal migrant workers are the victims of the mismanagement of labor migration in both countries.

In Malaysia, work permits have nearly grown into open businesses, particularly in the construction work sector. Official work permits for construction sector cost RM1,600, yet the workers have to pay it up to RM3,000 for the long chains of payment. A migrant worker in construction work may earn RM25 daily, apart from deduction for work permit fee, yet ironically, illegal workers could earn up to between RM40 to RM60 per day. Who would not one prefer to be illegal?

Everybody knows construction works are very brief. Generally less than one year the project exhausts. In fact most of the workers pay the work permit for the validity time of one year. Once the project is over, they are jobless and thereby penniless, while waiting for new projects. If other facilities and insurances received by illegal and legal workers are not even better, it is then more beneficial for them to take illegal modes. It is because Malaysia itself does not guarantee the implementation of the fulfillment of the workers’ rights as stipulated in its law. How then the workers would take legal procedures? They learn from facts on the ground that the salary of those illegal is generally higher than those of legal ones. If there are no legal incentives for those who have taken legal routes, it is consequential that they take illegal ones.

In reality, if one becomes legal worker, there is no guarantee she or he would not be raided by civil volunteers Rela or police officers, because her/his documents are in the hand of the employer. While s/he knows illegal workers mostly carry their own documents. In Malaysia you can easily find legal migrant workers yet arrested by Rela gangs. In Semenyih detention center in the outskirt of Kuala Lumpur, there are now many legal workers detained while their employers retain their documents. Many employers do not take care of their detained workers. They instead find it beneficial because they are freed then from paying the salaries of the detained workers. Many employers suspend the salaries of their workers. They work for three months but paid only for one month. The two-month salaries are delayed or worse not paid eventually. Most of construction workers would figuratively say, “If you become legal worker, your neck could be strangled.” Initially they have their complete documents in their hands but they later choose to be illegal because it is more beneficial.

Indonesian government is more than often too legalistic in their approaches. They virtually opt for putting pressure on their own citizens than taking resolute stance toward Malaysian parties. While Malaysian government does not take care even to the agreement they made themselves with their Indonesian counterparts. You may see the so-called memorandum of understanding between both countries, not even one point being followed suit or implemented by Malaysian parties. As a result, the agreement is more advantageous for the interests of the employers, and does not protect the workers.

Considering that the Malaysia’s policies are more enslaving migrant workers, the country actually does not fulfill the basic requirements of migrant workers-receiving country. Yet we all know that Indonesia’s poor rural condition is the main reason so that they work overseas. At least, most of them would think, with working in Malaysia, they still could feed their family, sending children to cheap schools, and if fortune smiles they could have some money to start small business at home.

The message is clear that we all should eradicate illegal migration from its root problems, with improving our public policies, while taking decisive bearing towards Malaysia. We are also challenged to prove to ourselves that we are a country of dignity, heralding the honor of our countrymen and women. Then we would stop victimizing those illegal workers.**

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