Protection Failures and Obstacles to Redress Indonesian migrant domestic workers facing abuses during recruitment, while waiting in pre-departure training centers, or when working in Malaysia have few options for seeking protection and little hope for redress.
The Indonesian and Malaysian governments abdicate most monitoring and protection functions to labor suppliers who may be either negligent or abusive themselves. Even women who obtain help from the Indonesian embassy or NGOs are still stymied in their quest for justice by Malaysian immigration and labor laws as well as labor agents who are able to vanish at critical moments and escape punishment.
In the wake of the Nirmala Bonat case in Maythe Indonesian and Malaysian governments announced several initiatives for addressing abuses against migrant domestic workers. These proposals include establishing a bilateral labor agreement on domestic workers, improving the quality of pre-departure training, and creating expanded support services for victims of abuse.
Bilateral Labor Agreements The severe abuse of Nirmala Bonat, an Indonesian domestic worker, sparked the governments of Indonesia and Malaysia to commit to negotiating a MoU specifically for domestic workers during the summer of The content of the new MoU had yet to be decided at this writing, and it remained unclear whether it would provide substantive protections addressing the abuses that domestic workers encounter at all stages of the migration cycle or whether, instead, it would legitimize the inadequate systems and flawed policies currently in place.
Currently, the government generally relies upon profit-oriented labor agencies to monitor workplace conditions, even though these agencies are often accused of abuse and exploitation themselves.
Malaysia and Indonesia brokered a Memorandum of Understanding MoU governing labor migration between the two countries in and signed another one on May 10, In addition to excluding domestic workers, the MoU signed on May 10,fails to provide several critical protections for other types of migrant workers.
The MoU permits employers to hold the passports of migrant workers and prohibits migrants from organizing through unions or other labor associations. It covers recruitment, medical checkups, and transportation, leaving out important areas like conditions of work and sanctions for employers and labor agencies that abuse migrant workers.
The MoU also specifies that round-trip airfares should be jointly paid by Indonesian labor recruiters and Malaysian employers and that migrant workers should earn a minimum salary of U. Bilateral agreements have few mechanisms for enforcement and redress, and unequal power relationships between countries of origin and destination make it difficult to produce fair agreements that truly protect migrant workers.
Human Rights Watch interviewed several Indonesian government officials who noted that Indonesia felt inhibited from negotiating too hard as they feared that Malaysia would turn elsewhere for cheap labor. Response of the Indonesian Government The Indonesian government has begun to respond to reports of abuse of Indonesian domestic workers through new policies and provision of support services.
For example they have drafted legislation on the protection of migrant workers and have established a coordinating ministerial body on migrant workers. The Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration has placed increased emphasis on pre-departure training programs.
These reforms remain woefully inadequate compared to the scale and intensity of the problems. Several different ministries are taking up initiatives related to the protection of migrant workers, but coordination is weak. Bureaucratic hurdles and lack of meaningful oversight also contribute to a system that permits labor agents to freely exploit migrant workers without fear of sanction.
Government corruption at all levels remains an impediment to preventing and responding to abusive labor practices.
Although the Indonesian government has drafted legislation to protect overseas workers, the delay in assigning a government ministry to sponsor the bill has stalled parliamentary debate and enactment of the law.
Policies on Overseas Migrant Workers The Indonesian government has a mixed record on legal protections for migrant workers. It is one of the few countries in Asia that has ratified all of the fundamental ILO conventions, and has laws that specifically protect the freedom to organize.a memorandum, “Tenancingo Bulletin #1— ing involves workers who enter the U.S.
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