Indonesia, Malaysia Promise Greater Protection of Migrant Workers


FEBRUARY 10, 2015

[This story was updated at 9:55 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015, to add details of President Joko Widodo's visit to Brunei and the Philippines]

Jakarta. The governments of Indonesia and Malaysia plan to set up a "one-door" policy to handle migrant workers' job placement.

The proposal was discussed during President Joko Widodo's two-day state visit to Malaysia last week. Joko and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak agreed to work towards better protection of migrant workers, tens of thousands of whom travel from Indonesia to Malaysia each year.

Minister of Manpower Hanif Dhakiri said on Tuesday that both governments hope the policy will improve the protection and placement of workers, but it would only apply to workers taking domestic employment — some of the most vulnerable traveling abroad.

"The policy will be implemented by related ministries," Hanif Dhakiri said in a statement. "With this one-door policy, we hope the mechanism will be better and there will be no illegal migrant workers anymore."

Exact details of the policy are still to be confirmed, but the government said it will include the establishment of a center to handle permits and job placement of Indonesian migrants. The center will be run by both governments.

Malaysia has also agreed to allow Indonesia to build community learning centers in Sabah and Serawak, on Malysaian Borneo, to guarantee access to education for migrant workers' children.

"Both governments have to provide access to education for every child as ordered by UNESCO," Hanif said.

The Indonesian government, meanwhile, promised to continue to help repatriate illegal workers from Malaysia.

"We have brought home 707 migrant workers with problems from Malaysia," the minister said. "We still have 1,000 to bring home as soon as possible."

Treatment of migrant workers is a major political issue in Indonesia, where young women are frequently recruited from villages and sent to work abroad, typically in Malaysia or Saudi Arabia.

Cases of abuse and extortion, as well as crimes involving those workers, are not uncommon.

Brunei, Philippines

After visiting Malaysia, the Indonesian delegation — which also included first lady Iriana, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Trade Minister Rachmat Gobel and Coordinating Economic Minister Sofyan Djalil — headed to the Brunei capital of Bandar Seri Begawan for bilateral talks with Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

The latter asked Indonesia to open direct flight routes connecting Bandar Seri Begawan with Jakarta and other large Indonesian cities, including Denpasar in Bali, and Surabaya in East Java.

“This would not only contribute to [the growth] of our economies and tourism sectors, but also make it easier for many Indonesians, who form the largest migrant workforce in Brunei Darussalam, to travel here,” the sultan said.

Joko, who characterized Indonesia’s ties with Brunei as the “most stable” of all its bilateral relationships, was awarded the sovereign state’s highest honorary title, the Most Esteemed Family Order Laila Utama on Saturday.

Joko conceded that very few deals were made with Brunei.

“We only hope to see more investment from Brunei in Indonesia,” he said.

In Manila, the last leg of the president’s three-country tour, Joko and his Philippine counterpart Benigno Aquino agreed to double the volume of bilateral trade between the two nations by 2016 from $4.59 billion in 2013, with Indonesia enjoying a $3.04-billion surplus.

The two presidents also agreed to begin negotiations on the two archipelagic nations’ continental shelf boundary, as well as to review a trans-border and joint patrol agreement, which was signed in 1975.

They agreed to encourage the opening of new flight routes connecting the two nations, and welcomed Indonesian flag carrier Garuda Indonesia’s plan to launch its Jakarta-Manila route in May.