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State 'fails to protect migrants'

Rights group wants end to workers' death row

Migrant workers protest in Jakarta last year Migrant workers protest in Jakarta last year
  • Chelluz Pahun, Jakarta
  • Indonesia
  • February 23, 2012
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The rising number of migrant workers sitting on death row or becoming victims of serious physical abuse or murder is a result of the state’s inaction and therefore its “failure” to offer protection, according to activists.

Despite the enactment of a law in 2004 on the placement and protection of Indonesian migrant workers, many continue to be subjected to physical and psychological abuse in countries where they work.

A policy analyst at Migrant Care (www.migrantcare.net), an NGO which seeks to assist migrant workers, recently gave a scathing assessment of government attempts to help overseas workers.

“Workers cannot feel the presence of their own government in trying to uphold justice. There is no commitment by the state to protect them,” Wahyu Susilo said.

The only way to help migrant workers is by taking concrete measures to comprehensively and radically reform how placements are made and to ensure that this and their working conditions meet human rights standards.

Migrant Care says thousands of cases involving migrant workers last year ranging from an execution to deportations.

The NGO revealed that 32 workers were on death row -- 17 in Malaysia, nine in China, and five in Saudi Arabia.

As many as 417 could face the death penalty – a whopping 348 in Malaysia, 45 in Saudi Arabia, 22 in China, and two in Singapore.

Migrant Care executive-director, Anis Hidayah, said many of the workers facing death sentence were convicted of killing their employers, but in many cases they were acting in self-defense or committed their crime after having been severely maltreated by them.

Their trials are usually swift and in many case defendants do not get a proper chance to defend themselves, Hidayah said, citing the execution of Ruyati binti Satubi in June last year.

Satubi was executed in Mecca, Saudi Arabia for killing her employer’s wife with a machete.

“After Ruyati, there will be more and more Indonesian migrant workers [executed]. In many cases the death sentence is a true injustice faced by the workers and their families. Thus, it must be fought against,” Hidayah added.

Hidayah said Migrant Care also recorded that 3,070 workers suffered from physical abuse last year while another 1,234 were sexually abused. Some 1,203 workers had died.

Earlier this month, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed a document ratifying the 1990 UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

The ratification is just the start. As a country sending workers abroad it also needs to take more concrete action on the diplomatic front, Hidayah said.
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