Major cases that had occurred related to Indonesian migrant workers abroad. In fact, a lot has happened to migrants that are sent through Indonesian migrant workers agencies, which are state-appointed official institutions to channel migrant workers to foreign countries. This fact was mentioned by Wahyu Susilo, a migrant workers activist from Migrant Care, in a public discussion on Migrant Workers and the Wealth of Nations, which was held by the Freedom Institute in cooperation with Friedrich Naumann Foundation, on January 13th, 2011.
Furthermore Wahyu Susilo said there were about 18 state institutions involved in the affairs of Indonesian workers overseas, or migrant workers. Recruitment agencies are one of them. He said that the biggest mistake is giving a monopoly to the state to manage the migrant workers affairs, through a recruitment agency or the Supervisory Board for Placement and Protection of Indonesian Workers (BNP2TKI – National Authority for the Placement and Protection Indonesian Overseas Workers). Protection and placement of Indonesian migrant workers mechanism is still bad. One example is when the migrant workers arrive at the airport in Indonesia; they do not have a choice of transportation modes that will be used. Everything has been arranged by the state, which sometimes it is very expensive and burdensome to them.
The issue of protection of migrant workers’ rights and freedom of movement of workers within and across countries has always been a hot issue in the media. At the ASEAN level and beyond, their member countries have started getting ready to open their borders, towards the so-called open-Asian economic community. Open market in this context is not only for exit-entry of goods and services, but also for humans.
Ari Perdana, an economist observer from CSIS (Centre for Strategic and International Studies), who also became one of the speakers in the public discussion quoted a liberal economist Dani Roderick who stated, if human migration is being liberalised possible advantages can be achieved 25 times the gains from liberalization of investment.
According to Ari Perdana, migration issues become important because they concern the issue of welfare. Other aspects, such as financial institutions are also important, especially in relation to foreign exchange and income derived from remittances to the village of origin of migrant workers, which in certain areas amount to even four times the local revenue of the regions.
Natural disasters and wars can lead to migration of citizens from one country to another. But the reason for most migration is economic, social and political change in countries of origin. Migration is one way to avoid poverty, which actually has been done for a long time in human history. By migration humans hope to obtain a better life in the destination country or regions.
Wahyu Susilo said that the process of migration of Indonesian citizens to other countries, such as Sabah, in Malaysia for instance, occurs spontaneously and voluntarily since time immemorial. In the modern era, however, state calls this illegal migration, which is therefore not documented and do not receive legal protection. Actually according to their status as Indonesian citizens they should have a protection, wherever they are. There are nearly 2 million migrant workers from Indonesia, whether or not documented by the state, living and working in Malaysia.
Wahyu Susilo emphasizes the importance of the right of citizens to choose the type of migration they want and being not monopolised by the state and institutions that are determined by the state.
Aspects of the welfare and protection of the rights of migrant workers has also been the focus of attention in an international conference by the Economic Freedom Network Asia, which was held by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation and Freedom Institute, in Indonesia in October last year. Not only should for the protection of migrant workers outside and inside the country be assured, but also the freedom of movement of should workers be enlarging to be used to build the prosperity of the nation.
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