Village initiative on migrant workers to be presented at UN

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THE JAKARTA POST/JAKARTA

Miftahul Munir, the village head of Dukuhkempok in East Java’s Jember regency, is set to become the first Indonesian village leader to deliver a presentation at the United Nations when he speaks at an upcoming UN event in Geneva, Switzerland.

Joining the Indonesian delegation at the 27th session of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families on Monday, Miftahul is set to talks about a village regulation (Perdes) his village has initiated to protect residents who work as migrant workers.

Dukuhkempok is one of 48 Indonesian villages that have issued such regulations to protect the rights of residents who seek jobs abroad as migrant workers and of their families at home. The 48 villages are scattered across four regencies known to have the highest number of migrant workers — Lembata in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), Central Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), as well as Banyuwangi and Jember in East Java.

Enacted in May, the Dukuhkempok Perdes, which has been printed in booklets in both Indonesian and English, details the responsibilities of the migrant workers as well as their rights, which are to be protected by the village administration.

“We know there are many problems when it comes to migrant workers, who mostly are village people. [The villagers] know nothing about being a migrant worker, and they will believe almost anything employment agencies tell them,” the 45-year-old Miftahul said during a press conference on Saturday.

“[That is why] we came up with the regulation, as we want to protect our people so they can work safely,” he added.

Under the Perdes, Dukuhkempok village officials are responsible for monitoring private employment agencies recruiting the workers and must also assist the residents in preparing themselves to work overseas, including by laying out scenarios should they face problems while working abroad.

“Under the new policy, the village administration must study data about the migrant workers and their jobs abroad, including the information of the private employment agencies, before giving people the permission to work abroad,” Miftahul said. “And even when they are abroad, we still maintain communication with them.”

The village administration also plans to assist former migrant workers and their families in setting up small businesses.

The Village Law grants village administrations the authority to draft out regulations to improve village welfare, in line with the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (ICRMW), which was ratified by Indonesia in 2012.
ICRMW singnarories like Indonesia must submit an initial report based on a list of issues prior to reporting, including questions posed by the committee on the implementation of the convention by Indonesia, five years after its ratification.

Activists have lauded the village initiative as effective and proactive amid sluggish efforts by the central government to improve migrant worker protection.

“The village administrations have done more than the government does,” Migrant CARE executive director Wahyu Susilo said.
One of the government’s efforts is a plan to amend the 2004 law on migrant workers protection, but it is seeing slow progress since the deliberation process involving the government and the House of Representatives began in 2015.

“The government should be embarrassed [when facing] village communities, which have taken the initiative to protect themselves,” said Cak Mul Mulyadi from Surakarta-based migrant rights campaign group Social Analysis and Research Institute (SARI).

“Before the Perdes initiative, it was common to see village officials involved in illegal practices by unofficial agents dispatching people as migrant workers. Each of them could get around Rp 4 million [US$299.6],” Mulyadi said.