"I was forced to pay a loan agreement for deductions to the employment agency. My passport was taken from me and I didn't get it back until the deductions were fully paid," reports a Sara. She is one of many affected people who want to work abroad and has been cheated on in the process. Many people leave their homeland because they can't find work. In countries like Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, they receive relatively good salaries even for low-skilled jobs.
But when they fall into the hands of exploitative intermediaries or employers, they slip even deeper into the spiral of poverty. They are betrayed and have to pay excessive taxes to the agencies, the exploitation extends to debt bondage. It happens that they are forced to sign a new contract after arriving in the target country - with a much lower salary and worse working conditions than previously agreed. As a means of pressure, your passport is taken away or you receive false papers, so that you - unintentionally - illegally stay abroad. Many migrant workers also suffer from inhumane working and living conditions: "We were locked up in our accommodation and were not allowed to leave. In the night, we were lined up on the floor like sardines in a can." says Sara.
According to World Bank estimates from 2016, a total of 9 million Indonesians work abroad - including 4.3 million undocumented migrants. More than half of them are women, who often work in the informal sector e.g. as housekeepers. Out of ignorance and sometimes pure desperation, they accept any offer and fall for recruitment agencies that work illegally or disregard laws and regulations.
Together with our Indonesian partner organization INFEST, we work to ensure that migrant workers are informed about their rights and are able to assert them. The project is aimed both at returning migrants and families left behind, East Java, and at people who have already migrated to Malaysia. Our goal is to improve their access to justice and justice, which has been poor in their home country and in Malaysia. Through this approach, our partner organization INFEST receives first-hand information on various aspects of labour migration and can address the wide range of problems such as undocumented migration, illegal placement agencies, fraud, exploitation.
At the local level, community groups are established and strengthened in East Java (Indonesia) and Johor Bahru (Malaysia) so that they can respond to specific cases of rights violations. They also inform their communities about safe migration and the legal basis. INFEST networks the communities with organizations and local government units so that uniform, effective case handling can take place. Through an information system developed by INFEST, cases of legal violations against migrant women can be processed and documented in a standardized way by the organizations. INFEST also brings the community groups into partnerships with government organizations and, for example, the Indonesian consulate in Johor Bahru (Malaysia). In addition, INFEST advocates that village governments take responsibility in the fight against human trafficking and unsafe migration by participating in comprehensive protection mechanisms for migrant women.
*Names changed to protect people
|Project||Strengthening rights for migrant workers across borders|
|Place/Region||Java-Timur (Indonesia) & Johor Bahru (Malaysia)|
|Partner||INFEST (Institute for education development, social, religious, and cultural studies)|
migrant workers and their families, governmental institutions
|Budget||68.000 Euro p. a.|