Migrant worker problems recurring source of RI-Malaysia quarrels

Migrant worker problems recurring source of RI-Malaysia quarrels

Anwar Ibrahim. (REUTERS/Shahir Omar)

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Migrant worker problems always are a source of major squabbles between Indonesia and Malaysia, according to former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Migrant worker cases are treated merely as an economic issue between manpower recruitment agencies in Indonesia and Malaysia. "They only want to reap huge profits," Anwar said.

Speaking in a public discussion on access to justice here Saturday, Anwar said he was also concerned about the poor ways in which the Malaysian government was managing the treatment of foreign migrant workers.

In protecting all migrant workers, Anwar also demands the Malaysian government`s legal improvement and its citizen perception on migrant workers also to abolish caning as punishment because it was an inhumane penalty.

"They (migrant workers) are human too, they are not slaves, they came to Malaysia to work so they should be treated as humans, and with proper consideration," said the Malaysian opposition leader.

Indonesian illegal migrant workers came from the lower income groups, therefore they must be humanely treated.

Besides abolishing caning as a way to punish alleged wrongdoers, Anwar said, trials of delinquent migrant workers must be done transparently and their families must be allowed to visit them regardless of whether or not they were guilty.

Anwar also said it was unlawful (haram) for Malaysian employers to hire Indonesian workers and not pay their wages in the agreed amount.

According to Anwar, the recent developing modus done by the Malaysian employers is by only paying 1.5 years of wages to workers who had worked two years, then call the police to arrest the migrant worker, so that the latter`s remaining wages need not be paid.

"Imagine if thousands of people are treated in that way. How much money are the employers taking from the workers? This is unlawful," said Anwar.

Earlier, Indonesia imposed a moratorium on or temporary suspension of the dispatch of workers to Malaysia which had been going on since June 2009, and recently an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) was signed to lift the moratorium on the sending of Indonesian workers to Malaysia.

Based on data from the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry, Malaysia became a country that has a list of cases most Indonesian citizens under death sentence by 233 workers, while China is ranked second with 29 people, and Saudi Arabia is ranked third with 28 people.

Drug abuse case led up to 180 Indonesian workers threatened by the death sentence, while murder cases at about 50 percent.