Fri, 18 Jul 2003

NGO demands ratification of convention on migrant workers

A'an Suryana, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Consortium for Indonesian Migrant Workers Advocacy (Kopbumi) demanded on Thursday that the government immediately ratify a United Nations 1990 convention protecting the rights of migrant workers and their families.

The People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), the highest law making body in the country, had mandated protection of migrant workers and their rights, the Consortium's secretary, Wahyu Susilo, said.

The convention was made on July 1 and has been ratified by 22 countries, including the Philippines, which like Indonesia is one of the world's major exporters of labor.

"It is a pity that the Indonesian government remains unable to ratify the convention. The MPR decree, recommending that the Indonesian government protect migrant workers and their families has been violated," said Wahyu.

Issued during the annual session last year, the decree urged the government and the House of Representatives (DPR) to form a law protecting the rights of migrant workers and their families. The decree was approved after the nation witnessed thousands of migrant workers stranded in the tiny East Kalimantan town of Nunukan, after being expelled en masse from Malaysia.

The exodus followed a new, more restrictive immigration act adopted by Malaysia. A grace period had been provided by Malaysia, before the act came into effect, but the Indonesian government did not anticipate the exodus.

Over 300,000 Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia were undocumented at the time.

Wahyu said that the Nunukan case should convince the government to ratify the convention immediately.

"Having been sluggish in ratifying it, Indonesia will lose the chance to sit on the UN commission for protection of migrant workers rights," said Wahyu.

The 1990, International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, provides protection for all migrants, both documented and undocumented, recognizing that migrant workers and their families are not economic entities but human beings with rights and entitlements.

Lawyers in Medan, North Sumatra, have called on the Indonesian embassy in Kuala Lumpur to help secure the release of 46 Indonesian contract workers, detained by Malaysian police following last week's brawl with Thai workers.

"These workers should be released soon," the director of the Legal Aid Institute, Irham Buana Nasution, said as quoted by Antara on Thursday.