KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 8 — There is an urgent need for both Malaysian and Indonesian governments to look into problems faced by the republic’s migrant workers, particularly in Sabah, advocacy groups said yesterday.
Based on findings of a report released today by advocacy group Koalisi Buruh Migran Berdaulat (KBMB), human rights commission from both countries also called on their governments to work together to find a long-term solution on providing better care and protection for migrant workers.
Mohammad Choirul Anam, commissioner of Indonesia’s National Commission of Human Rights said the problem involving migrant workers in Sabah is a complicated one as it is an ongoing cycle of the economy and the specific industries.
“While Indonesians have the right to choose their profession, we need to think about how we can protect them.
“Hopefully with this report, it will be our agenda together, to respond to the findings on how we can follow human rights standards to protect workers in Indonesia and Malaysia,” the Jakarta-based activist said during a webinar to launch KBMB’s report yesterday.
Mohammad Choirul added that serious and long-term solutions are needed as many Indonesians whom he met have expressed their intention to work in Malaysia for many years.
Indonesia’s National Commission of Anti-Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) shared similar sentiments.
KBMB had embarked on interviewing 43 out of 1,082 Indonesian migrant workers met upon their return to Indonesia due to deportation from four temporary detention centres in Sabah between June and September this year.
The migrant workers were detained during the movement control order enforced starting March 18 to contain the Covid-19 outbreak in Malaysia.
According to KBMB’s report, Indonesian migrant workers were wrongfully detained, including those who possessed legal documents.
The report also revealed that while in detention, migrant workers were inhumanely treated and deprived of basic human rights at temporary detention centres in Sabah.
Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) commissioner Jerald Joseph who also spoke at the webinar said both governments needed to look at the root cause of the recurring problems.
“Both the governments of Indonesia and Malaysia need to find a solution to undocumented migrant workers.
“If [the Malaysian government] is afraid of undocumented migrant workers walking into Malaysia via ‘rat trails’, then find a long-term resolution for this 30 to 40 years of walking-across-the-border-problem,” said Jerald.
He said the plantation sector and others in private business should also refrain from hiring undocumented migrant workers.
“Especially with the plantation industry... if there is a demand, there will be supply.
“It is the role of our plantation owners and private sectors to not hire undocumented migrant workers. If they need these workers why not hire them legally?” he asked.
Jerald also pointed out that syndicates at both the international and domestic levels were working together to bring in undocumented migrant workers.
“The Malaysian and Indonesian governments have to work together to address this,” he said.
Jerald urged the Malaysian government to publish the Special Independent Committee on Foreign Worker Management Report which was completed in March.
“There is a need for an overhaul to the migrant worker management in [Malaysia] and that is why the report is crucial.
“Right now we don’t even know whether the government has adopted some of the recommendations presented in the report or what are their views on the report,” he told Malay Mail after the webinar.
He added that Suhakam is interested to look at solving problems involving migrant workers in a more holistic manner and to work out a long term solution.
“This report could shed some light to our authorities to make some changes.
“It involves serious intergovernmental resolutions,” he said.
In February 2019, the former Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran had presented recommendations on how policies on migrant workers could be streamlined.
The committee was given the responsibility to get views of all quarters in each state and present its findings to the Cabinet.
Among others, the country’s foreign workers recruitment policy was discussed during the meeting and suggestions to remove third party service providers or agents.
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