UN expert urges Indonesia to ensure labour agencies uphold rights of migrant workers

26 December 2006

Hearing reports of sexual and psychological abuse, long work hours and irregular payment of salaries, an independent United Nations expert has called on Indonesia, which provides many migrant workers for overseas employers, to ensure that recruitment agencies protect the human rights of their workers.

Hearing reports of sexual and psychological abuse, long work hours and irregular payment of salaries, an independent United Nations expert has called on Indonesia, which provides many migrant workers for overseas employers, to ensure that recruitment agencies protect the human rights of their workers.

The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Jorge Bustamante, visited Indonesia from 12-21 December and travelled to border areas near Singapore where he saw the return programme for migrants, mainly deportees from abroad, and also departure centres where migrant workers are given training to adapt to the various countries where they’ll work.

“Increasingly Indonesian migrants are women, recruited abroad often for domestic work, [and they] do not enjoy adequate legal protection and have limited access to social services,” Mr. Bustamante said, adding that women domestic workers who had returned told him about “a wide range of human rights abuses” in the countries where they worked.

Such abuses include “extremely long hours of work without overtime pay, no rest days, incomplete and irregular payment of wages, psychological, physical, and sexual abuse,” Mr. Bustamante said, calling on Indonesia to follow-up on the treatment of such workers by labour agencies, as well as to end all illegal recruitment and exploitation by these agencies.

He also urged Indonesia’s authorities to ensure that domestic law and its implementation complies with international obligations to protect the rights of women as defined in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women to which Indonesia is a party.

Mr. Bustamante also pointed out that Indonesia’s Government “bears some responsibility towards its nationals living and working abroad, particularly when their rights are abused.” Further, he said that non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the media, police and other groups had a role to play in protecting migrants living in Indonesia and the rights of Indonesian workers abroad.

Referring to a Memorandum of Understanding signed between Indonesia and Malaysia in May, the Special Rapporteur said he regretted that “representatives of civil society, including NGOs were not involved,” highlighting that its provisions addressed the interests of employers and recruitment agencies “without equal consideration” for the human rights of the migrants themselves.

Mr. Bustamante said he was encouraged that Indonesia’s National Legislature has agreed to discuss the signature of the 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families in early 2008, however he stressed the need to raise public awareness about this Convention and encouraged the Government to ratify it.

The Special Rapporteur, who is unpaid and serves in an independent personal capacity, will now provide Indonesia’s Government with recommendations on these issues in his report to the Human Rights Council.

 

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