Sat, 25 Mar 2000

Over 30,000 expatriates work illegally in Indonesia

JAKARTA (JP): The Manpower Ministry revealed on Friday that more than 30,000 expatriates from numerous countries are working illegally in Indonesia without having to fear strict measures from authorities.

Director General for Labor Placement Din Syamsuddin said the country's poor bureaucracy, weak law enforcement and promising remuneration were the common reasons for foreigners to enter Indonesia illegally.

"Most of the illegal foreign workers are employed by fishing companies, entertainment centers and mining and manufacturing firms," he said.

The fishing companies mostly operate in eastern Indonesia, Jakarta, Bali and Batam, Riau, and recruit expatriates from the Philippines, Thailand, South Korea and Taiwan, he added.

Din said many of the companies use modern ships that bear the Indonesian flag.

"Foreign investors taking local companies as their partners have never registered their foreign workers to the Manpower Ministry or the Foreign Investment Agency (Bapepam) in order to evade income taxes and other legal levies," he said.

He complained that many of the companies operated illegally in Indonesian waters without any detection from security authorities.

There have been many reports from provincial manpower ministry offices saying foreign fishing companies used modern equipment, including remote sensing, to exploit marine resources, according to Din.

Illegal foreign workers has also raised concerns about the spread of lethal diseases. Din said that in Irian Jaya, many foreign fishermen had infected the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) to local prostitutes.

Din pointed out that hundreds of sex workers from China, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Thailand are employed in nightspots in Jakarta, Bali and Batam.

"Many entered with tourist visas and many others were smuggled in by giving bribes to immigration officials," he said.

It is difficult for the Manpower Ministry to detect them because they always move from one entertainment center to another and avoid staying in one place permanently, according to Din.

"Many local entertainment businessmen are allegedly involved in international syndicates which supplies foreign sex workers because of huge demands here. You can imagine that the inflow of sex workers will remain high if they are paid an average of between Rp 2 million and Rp 5 million each per night," he said.

Din also found the scarcity of skilled workers in Indonesia had driven many foreign investors here to employ expatriates illegally.

"Local and foreign investors are allowed to recruit expatriates whose skills are not available at here, but are subject to approval from the government as stipulated by the 1977 presidential decree," he said.

Only 30,000 expatriates work in Indonesia with proper documents and have been registered at the Manpower Ministry, Bapepam and Batam Authorities, according to Din.

He called on immigration authorities and the National Police to step up measures to detect the presence of illegal expatriates and take strict measures against them.

Din said, on the other hand, the government should improve the quality of domestic workers and intensify training programs to avoid a possible rush of foreign workers in the wake of the implementation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) labor agreement this September and the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) in 2003.

"Indonesia can no longer stop the inflow of expatriates and their employment rate will remain high if we fail to make necessary preparations for the free trade era," he said.

According to him, the government could add certain nontechnical requirements for foreigners wishing to work in the country in a bid to restrict the entrance of expatriates. (rms)