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Indonesian migrants bravely on the deceptive sea of ​​Malaysia dreams | Labor Rights Issues

Medan, Indonesia – Figo Paroji from Indonesia was working on a construction project in Malaysia, and the end of the year was scary.

“I campaigned every year. I wanted to inform Indonesian workers without permission by boat and warn them not to cross in November or December, “Paroji, who works in western Selangor from 2006 to 2019, told Al Jazeera.” . “

Paroji has left Malaysia and is now a co-ordinator of the Indonesian Migrant Workers’ Union, but waves of Indonesian workers traveling on a fraudulent tour are still coming.

On December 15, another boat carrying 50 people from Indonesia rolled on the coast of Johor state in Malaysia in bad weather.

Fourteen survivors were found in Tanjung Balau Beach – along with the wreckage of the boat – and 18 bodies were found, according to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency. At least 20 people are still missing, presumed dead.

Paroji, who has not been registered for three of the 13 years he has worked in Malaysia, said workers continue to risk their lives traveling to Indonesia on small and unsafe boats due to frustration.

“The main reason people are so careless with this trip is the financial crisis,” he said. “In Indonesia there is no equal opportunity in Malaysia.”

Human rights activists have called on the government to do justice to the late domestic worker Adelina Sau [Courtesy of Gabriel Goa]

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Indonesia’s unemployment rate in August reached 6.49 percent. Poverty in Indonesia has risen 10.4 percent since March 2021, up from 9.2 percent in September 2019, according to World Bank data.

There are about 2.7 million Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia, although solid figures are hard to come by because it is one-third of the workforce who are believed to have been hired, according to Indonesian ambassador to Malaysia Hermono, who like many Indonesians go by the same name. . . These migrants work from houseworkers to construction and agricultural workers.

“Most small businesses have taken everyone,” Paroji said. “They do not have a permit to hire foreign workers but they do not have a job as long as the work is cheap.

Reports of physical and mental abuse are common because refugee workers often do not have access to professional organizations or security services that are legitimate and legitimate.

In November 2020, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry requested that Malaysian authorities monitor the recruitment and protection of Indonesian migrant workers, following allegations of an Indonesian domestic worker tortured, burned with hot water and starvation.

Similar atrocities were also reported by Anita, a 42-year-old domestic worker who moved to Malaysia in 2018 after discovering what she thought was a break.

When Anita struggled to find work in her hometown in North Sumatra, she introduced a social worker to a friend who promised to work as a housemaid in Kuala Lumpur.

As soon as Anita arrived, her breathing was awkward.

“My bosses immediately confiscated my passport and bank account,” Anita, who asked not to use her real name, told Al Jazeera. “He told me that since he was paying for my room and board, I would not need my own money. He said he would send my monthly payment to my agent and he would keep me until the end of my contract.

This was just the beginning of his troubles.

Anita said they are forced to work from 4am to 11pm every day and are only given enough food. Breakfast was a dry loaf of bread without butter or jam, while lunch and dinner were usually made of broken rice and chicken bones with a little meat.

“I was made to clean the house with a brush without the use of protective equipment such as gloves,” he said, adding that his right skin peeled off, which left him in pain.

After an 11-month ordeal, Anita asked to be allowed to return home. Although his employer resigned, he was only given a flight ticket home and a monthly payment of $ 237 (RM 1,000) in cash.

It wasn’t until he found a North Sumatra lawyer who agreed to represent his pro bono that he was able to terminate the contract with the employment agency which gave him all the money he had.

There is no other choice

At the time of Antia’s ordeal, the death of Adelina Sau, a domestic worker from East Nusa Tenggara in Indonesia, sparked a public outcry after she was allegedly beaten by her boss and laid to death outside the family’s dog.

Sau’s boss was charged with murder but released by the Penang Supreme Court, the decision was later upheld by the appellate court. An appeal against the attorney general’s decision continues in the Malaysian Supreme Court.

Gabriel Goa, chairman of the Legal Institute for Justice and Peace, told Al Jazeera that migrant activists have been promoting justice in the case before the Malaysian ambassador to Jakarta in recent weeks.

“The sale of maritime workers from Indonesia to Malaysia continues without strong action from both the Malaysian and Indonesian governments,” Goa said, adding that he believed government officials were negligent in bribing the network for corruption.

“It is unfortunate that tragic events such as the sinking of a boat that cause the deaths of traffickers do not cause any kind of deterrent to smugglers.”

As well as greater penalties for smugglers, Paroji, a former foreign worker, said there was a need to understand why workers were putting every risk to reach the coast of Malaysia.

“To my knowledge, people are still using these dangerous maritime routes because there is no other way and they cannot legally enter Malaysia,” Paroji said. “Most of them have already been listed, having been caught working illegally in Malaysia in the past, so they are forced to use such methods or enter with a travel visa.”

“Why is it still happening? Malaysia has the opportunity to work, “he added.” People crossing know that what they are doing is wrong, but they feel they have no choice.

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