Ratifying the United Nations (UN) Convention on International Migrant Workers will put Indonesia in a much stronger position when it comes to negotiating agreements to protect and promote the rights of its migrant workers in other countries, an activist says.
Migrant Care executive director Anis Hidayah said that other countries that had ratified the convention, adopted by the UN in 1990, had succeeded in protecting the rights of their workers and
“Countries that have ratified the convention, such as the Philippines, have a much stronger bargaining position in negotiating regulations on workers dispatched to other countries. They will be more open in negotiating and reaching agreements to protect the workers,” she said in a discussion on plans for the ratification of the UN Convention on International Migrant Workers and revision of Law No. 39/2004 on Migrant Workers.
Anis said the ratification of the convention could protect Indonesia’s migrant workers although its negotiating partners, such as the Saudi Arabia, had not yet ratified the convention.
“It still matters. Remember that we have mechanisms in the UN through which we submit annual reports on the protection and promotion of the rights of our migrant workers. Once we face problems, we can ask for support from countries that have ratified the convention,” she said.
Data from the International Labor Organization (ILO) said that more than 700,000 workers went overseas to find jobs every year. More than 78 percent of them work as domestic workers.
About 4.3 million Indonesians were estimated to work abroad in 2009.
Remittance sent by Indonesian migrant workers reached US$6 billion annually, placing it as the second-largest contributor to the country’s foreign exchange income. Despite their huge contribution to the national economy, many migrant workers still suffer from exploitation and abuse both within the country and abroad.
Indonesia has ratified six main human rights conventions and the 1990 UN convention on migrant workers is the last convention on human rights it should ratify. The convention sets principles on global migrations which are safe and in line with human rights standards.
The Presidential Mandate (Ampres) on the ratification of the UN convention on migrant workers was signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Feb. 7.
Both the draft law and the academic paper were submitted to the House of Representatives on Feb. 9
“The next process is in the hands of the lawmakers. Some of them have indicated that they will discuss the bill in the next sitting session starting in May,” said Muhammad Anshor, director of human rights at the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
By ratifying the convention, he said, Indonesia could refer to the convention’s principles in negotiating arrangements of labor dispatch with receiving countries.
“We haven’t been able to refer to the convention as we haven’t ratified the convention,” he said.
Anis said Indonesia should see the ratification as the initial step to move forward with its plans to better protect and promote the rights of the country’s migrant workers.
“Ratification is not the end of everything,” she said.