The Many Who Get Lost in the Red Tape Muddle
Suparmin has since 2008 been shuttling between Jakarta and his hometown of Purwodadi in Central Java to try and find news of his daughter, who went to work in Malaysia in 2006.
Wiwik Hariyanti was only 16 when she left, and Suparmin says he wanted her to go on to vocational school here.
“Things didn’t go as I planned because I didn’t have enough money to pay the entrance fee,” he says.
“Wiwik felt so depressed and ashamed that she couldn’t continue her studies, so she decided to find work in Malaysia. I let her go.”
She communicated regularly with her parents until 2008, when nothing more was heard from her, Suparmin says. “I went to the placement agency that got her the job, I went to the Manpower Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and the BNP2TKI [National Board for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Overseas Workers], but I got no answers,” he says.
“I later found out that Wiwik’s data was falsified by the placement agency, her age in particular and her marital status. I didn’t realize that at the time because I couldn’t read or write. Nor did I really understand the requirements to be a migrant worker. As far as I knew, she went to Malaysia through an authorized placement agency.”
For parents like Suparmin, the potential danger faced by their children working overseas is unnecessary. Why, they question, does the government not provide enough jobs at home?
“I never dreamed that my child would work aboard as a migrant worker, because I believe that Indonesia is a rich country,” Suparmin says.
For Fatihudin, 45, who used to work in Malaysia, the choice of whether to seek work at home or abroad is an easy one to make.
“If I could choose, I wouldn’t be a migrant worker,” he says.
“I’d work in Indonesia, where I could stay with my family and provide my children with a good education.” But the choice is not that simple, he points out.
“It’s no secret that even though Indonesia is such a rich country, it has limited employment opportunities,” he says.
That lack of opportunity is what prompted him to go to Malaysia in 1998, after registering with the manpower office in Bojonegoro, East Java. But that data was never shared with the Indonesian Embassy in Malaysia.
“It didn’t just happen to me, but also to another 70 migrant workers who were sent there at that time,” Fatihudin says.
“We only found out after we got fired by our employers. When we went to the embassy to ask for help, they claimed they didn’t have our data, which made us illegal migrant workers.”
What perplexes him is how the government could have let this happen. “Why did the manpower office turn us into illegal migrants, despite the fact that we paid all the required fees?” he asks.
The Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta), which has taken up the cases of Suparmin and Fatihudin, says it received 27 reports in 2009 and 2010 regarding migrant workers’ cases, including allegations of human trafficking, torture and withholding of salaries.