‘Only 130,000’ Migrant Workers Abroad Are Bad Apples, Muhaimin Says
Indonesia’s 6.5 million migrant workers overseas should not be characterized as troublemakers because only 1 to 2 percent of them face legal problems, Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar said on Monday, promptly drawing criticism from rights activists.
Such a small number of cases, he said, should not reflect badly on the rest of the workers. The minister also called on prospective migrant workers to make sure they had the requisite documents and skills before going overseas.
“It’s only 1 to 2 percent of migrant workers who have problems. Many others have been successful,” Muhaimin said at a workshop in Tulungagung, East Java.
However, rights activists said this small proportion still represented 65,000 to 130,000 people facing legal woes abroad, and they blasted the minister for writing this off as a negligible number of cases.
“He is just blatantly ignorant to say something like that,” Hendardi, the chairman of the Setara Institute, said in Jakarta. “How can you say it’s OK if thousands of our citizens faces problems abroad?”
He said the statement highlighted the flawed mentality of government officials in justifying their performance by citing statistics without fully understanding them.
“The minister should concentrate on boosting protection for every citizen working overseas rather than blaming those who face problems overseas,” he said.
More than 200 Indonesian citizens face the death penalty or lengthy prison sentences in countries ranging from Iran to Malaysia, officials said recently.
According to a count by the government-appointed task force on migrant worker protection, better known as Satgas TKI, 149 Indonesians face serious sentences in Malaysia, along with 37 in Saudi Arabia. Fourteen others are on death row in China, with one each in Brunei, Singapore and Iran.
“The government should work hard to help these workers,” Hendardi said.
Muhaimin said the government was drafting a policy to ensure that by 2017 no Indonesian migrant worker was employed as a domestic or informal worker.
“Previously, 70 percent of our migrant workers had jobs in the informal sector. Now that figure is 55 percent,” he said.
Of the 6.5 million Indonesian migrant workers, 2 million are in Malaysia and 1.5 million in Arab Saudi, while the rest work in Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. Last year, they sent a combined Rp 60 trillion ($6.5 billion) back home.