22 December 2006
The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Jorge Bustamante, issued the following statement today:
The Special Rapporteur expresses his warm thanks to the Government of Indonesia for their assistance and cooperation during his ten day visit to Indonesia from 12 to 21 December 2006.
While in the country, the Special Rapporteur traveled to the border areas in Tanjung Pinang and Enitkong where he witnessed first hand the return and insertion programme for migrants, mainly deportees from abroad.
He also had the opportunity to visit departure centers where migrant workers are provided with initial training to adapt to the conditions in the countries of destination.
The Special Rapporteur welcomes the fact that the Indonesian Government has demonstrated significant political will and has taken important steps to address the needs of and problems faced by migrants in general.
Vulnerability of Female Migrants Workers
Increasingly Indonesian migrants are women, recruited abroad often for domestic work, do not enjoy adequate legal protection and have limited access to social services. When meeting with women domestic workers who had returned to Indonesia, the Special Rapporteur heard about a wide range of human rights abuses in the workplace in their countries of destination, including extremely long hours of work without overtime pay, no rest days, incomplete and irregular payment of wages, psychological, physical, and sexual abuse.
The Special Rapporteur encourages Indonesia:
- to follow up on the treatment of women migrant workers by labor agencies, requiring careful oversight of the work of such agencies, and enforcement mechanisms that include imposition of penalties on agents who abuse workers,
- to monitor recruitment agencies, labor suppliers and places of employment to deter an environment where domestic workers are exploited with impunity,
- to ensure that domestic law and its implementation comply with its international obligations to protect the rights of women as defined in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to which Indonesia is a party to.
The Special Rapporteur notes that competition and unethical practices among profit-seeking labor suppliers and recruiters create an environment that compromises migrant workers rights and place them in a situation of great vulnerability. It also undermines the effectiveness of the existing regulations. The Special Rapporteur calls on the Indonesian Government as well as NGOs and other social actors such as the media, employers, police and immigration officials to remain vigilant and spare no efforts in protecting the rights of migrants living in Indonesia and the rights of Indonesians migrant workers abroad.
Referring to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Governments of the Republic of Indonesia and Malaysia signed on May 13, 2006, the Special Rapporteur regrets that representatives of civil society, including NGOs were not involved in the process leading to its finalization. The Special Rapporteur also regrets that the provisions contained in the MoU addresses the interests of employers and recruitment agencies without equal consideration for the human rights of the migrants themselves. For instance, recruitment agencies fees are very high, often up to six months of workers salaries, spawning a usurious money-lending industry that remains ignored.
The Special Rapporteur calls upon Indonesian authorities to ensure an end to illegal recruitment processes and to bring those responsible to justice. He also stresses the urgent need for a more rigorous regulation of the activities of recruitment agencies, particularly as regards the treatment of female domestic workers abroad.
The Special Rapporteur recalls that the government of Indonesia bears some responsibility towards its nationals living and working abroad, particularly when their rights are abused.
Ratification of the 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families
Finally the Special Rapporteur is encouraged by news that the National Legislature in Indonesia 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. While welcoming this positive development, the Special Rapporteur stresses the need for awareness raising measures among NGOs, the public at large for a thorough understanding of the content of the Convention and encourages the Government of Indonesia to ratify it.
The Special Rapporteur will provide the Government of Indonesia with recommendations on these issues in his report to the Human Rights Council.
Professor Jorge Bustamante was appointed Special Rapporteur in August 2005. The mandate on the human rights of migrants was established in 1999 to examine ways and means to overcome the obstacles existing to the full and effective protection of the human rights of migrants, including obstacles and difficulties for the return of migrants who are undocumented or in an irregular situation.