INDONESIA Church official supports ratifying migrants' rights agreement
March 20, 2009
JAKARTA (UCAN) -- A Catholic Church official says he supports a recent call by local NGOs asking the government to ratify an international agreement on migrant workers' rights that the country signed in 2004.
Holy Cross Father Serafin Dany Sanusi, executive secretary of the bishops' Commission for Justice and Peace, said the NGOs' initiative is in line with the Church's concern for such workers.
On March 12, 33 NGOs working with migrant workers issued a press release urging the government to immediately ratify the 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
Father Sanusi noted that Pope Benedict XVI, in his message for the 94th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which fell on Jan. 13, 2008, had also "demanded protection for migrant workers and their families."
The priest shared that his commission is aware that more and more Indonesian migrant workers are unjustly treated in their host countries.
Since January, a team from his commission has been visiting Jakarta's Tanjung Priok Harbor weekly and have seen about 80-100 Indonesian migrant workers returning home each time. "They said that they were deported without receiving any legal aid or protection," he recalled.
Father Sanusi said that after signing the agreement, the Indonesian government "should follow it up by ratifying it" so that its recommendations can be enforced in the country.
The NGOs' press release states: "In our view, migrant workers' rights are still violated because the government has not ratified the convention yet. As a result, the government has no legal obligation to uphold migrant workers' rights as mentioned in the convention."
The release points out that rights violations often occur during migrant workers' move from their hometowns to their host countries and vice versa, as well as during their employment.
The NGOs say that such workers sometimes experience blackmail, falsification of documents, illegitimate wage cuts, unilateral termination of contracts, and sexual abuse. Upon returning home, they often have to pay illegal fees to immigration officials.
The press release says there are now about 6 million Indonesians working in Brunei, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and the Middle East. More than 80 percent are women.
Retno Dewi, a representative of the NGOs, told UCA News that the press release was issued because "we have urged the government many times but never got a response from the president or minister of manpower and transmigration affairs."
Meanwhile Bishop Gerulfus Kherubim Pareira of Maumere, in the predominantly Catholic island of Flores, asked his priests to assist parishioners who want to work outside the country.
"Working abroad is not something new for our people," the prelate told participants of a March 9-11 diocesan pastoral meeting held in Nele, east of Maumere town. "Flores has been a supplier of migrant workers to Tawau (in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah) for decades. Yet we must inform would-be migrant workers about the regulations involved, so that they would not experience difficulties in their workplaces."
The bishop asked his priests to collect data on migrant and prospective migrant workers so as to give them better pastoral care.
According to the diocese's Commission for Migrants and Itinerants, about 15,000 people from the diocese are working in Sarawak and Sabah in eastern Malaysia, and in Brunei.