Southeast Asia • Indonesia

Strengthening rights for migrant workers across borders

Hundreds of thousands of people leave Indonesia every year in search of better income. Many of them run the risk of becoming victims of abuse, exploitation and human trafficking. Together with our partner organization - INFEST, we are committed to facilitating safe migration and promoting decent working conditions in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Our partner organisation INFEST offers education and information on the subject of secure migration as well as workshops and training courses. In this way, former migrants or family members can pass on their experiences and knowledge on the subject. (Photo: AWO International)Our partner organisation INFEST offers education and information on the subject of secure migration as well as workshops and training courses. In this way, former migrants or family members can pass on their experiences and knowledge on the subject. (Photo: AWO International)

"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 Sara. She is one of many affected people who wanted to work abroad and was cheated on in the process. Due to lack of better socio-economic opportunities in their homeland, many people seek for better opportunities abroad.  In countries like Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, they can seek work with relatively better salaries - even for low-skilled jobs. 

Often out of ignorance or sometimes out of pure desperation, individuals would accept any offer and fall for recruitment agencies that work illegally or disregard laws and regulations. Falling into the hands of exploitative intermediaries and employers worsens their original condition and pushes them spiraling more into poverty. Some are betrayed and made to pay excessive agency taxes and such exploitation extends to debt bondage. Others are forced to sign entirely new contracts after arriving in the migrant-receiving country; the terms are usually worst off than what was initially promised – with lower salaries and terrible working conditions. As a source of pressure, their passports are taken away and some are also given false papers, so that these migrants end up illegally staying abroad. 

Advise, inform and educate

INFEST was formed in 2009 by young activists in Yogyakarta. They commit themselves to empowering migrant workers’ communities and ensuring that these migrants are informed about their rights and can assert them. INFEST’s partnership with AWO International aims for Indonesian migrant workers in East Java and Malaysia to have better and a more improved access to their justice system – as it was deemed substantially lacking in both the country of origin and country of destination at the start. It also seeks to address the mélange of problems that migrant workers face – i.e. illegal recruitment agencies, exorbitant fees, contract substitution, physical abuse, exploitation, and the lack of economic opportunities and poverty.

The project will utilize an approach covering a sub-regional scope attempting to resolve a distinct set of problems at both ends of the spectrum; migrant workers and families at home in East Java (in the sub-districts of Ponorogo, villages of Bringinan, Pondok, and Nongkodono; and Blitar, villages of Gogodeso, Jatinom, and Pandanarum) and those who are currently working abroad (Johor Bahru, Malaysia). It also will apply a grassroots approach; community-based groups will be established and empowered in East Java and Johor Bahru so that they can sustainably handle migrant cases and continuously conduct advocacies, collaborate with other networks on case handling using a standardized information and data system for case management, and establish strong partnerships with local government units including the Indonesian Consulate in Johor Bahru. The project also aims to increase the village governments’ involvement in formulating a protection mechanism for migrant workers through the creation of village regulations. 

*Names were changed to protect people

Project information

ProjectActivating Migrant Worker Community Organization for Public Service Enhancement and Socio-Economic Improvement in East Java and Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Place/Region6 different villages in the regencies of Blitar and Ponorogo, Java-Timur (Indonesia) & Johor Bahru (Malaysia)
PartnerINFEST (Institute for education development, social, religious, and cultural studies)
Target group

Indonesian migrants and their families in the project villages; community-based organizations established in the 6 project villages; migrant organizations established in Johor Bahru, Malaysia; victims that have accessed case handling in the project areas;

  • Ensuring the availability of improved protection for migrant workers in East Java and Johor Bahru (Malaysia) through extended public service 
  • Strengthening the economic capacities of community-based organizations and improving the socio-economic situations of migrant workers and their families in East Java
Budget83.333 Euro p. a.

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