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Collaboration with Justice Without Borders: Training a local Indonesian community on migrant workers’ rights

Migrant workers are a huge contributor to many economies, particularly in the Asia Pacific region. Last year, Indonesian migrant workers were second only to the oil and gas sector in the amount of income they generated in the country. Unfortunately, many migrant workers are still exposed to various forms of exploitation, not only in their destination country, but also in their home country.

There have been recent developments in legal systems to promote the protection of the migrant workers. Many have inadequate information about their basic rights, particularly on safe migration procedures.

With the persisting challenges in the legal system to aid migrant workers’ cross-border claims, basic legal knowledge would enable them to protect their rights from being abused.

Collaboration with Justice Without Borders

On 11 February 2023, Ginting & Reksodiputro, in association with Allen & Overy, teamed up with Justice Without Borders to provide training for a local paralegal organisation, Women Crisis Centre Mawar Balqis, on “Migrant Workers’ Contractual Rights in Indonesia” in Cirebon, West Java, Indonesia. A total of 32 participants, including former migrant workers, frontline paralegals, local volunteers, and local authorities, attended the training.

Partner Tarsis Elfeb Halintar (Hali), with the support of associate Jihan Amalia and intern Yosua Iskandar, led the one-day training. The training soon became a very interactive, two-way discussion. The conversation mainly revolved around the common harmful practices by agents to migrant workers and the level of support typically provided by the local authorities.

For instance, one issue heavily discussed was overcharging, such as loans offered at unreasonably high interest rates. One of the participants shared their experience: “One of our neighbours received an amount of money by the employment agency without being told what the money is for. The agent only said verbally that it was pocket money, and she was happy to receive that. Unfortunately, a month later, she was surprised as her salary was extremely deducted. The agent explained that such charge was to repay her loan, which turned out to be contemplated in her contract but that she was not aware of.”

This was not the first time our Jakarta office gave legal training together with Justice Without Borders and we have in the past hosted similar sessions for frontline paralegals and local volunteers. “When discussing these issues, we do not want to just explain the black and white letter of the law, or what is legally right and wrong. It is a two-way process where we need to listen and understand the problems these migrant workers are facing. We are aware of the gap in the rules and the enforcement so we believe the most practical way to empower the migrant workers is with knowledge of their basic rights and the easy, practical ways they can exercise and protect those rights,” said Hali.

“Ginting & Reksodiputro’s involvement in this event was invaluable to JWB and the participants from different frontliners. The speakers not only imparted a great deal of legal knowledge to the participants but also provided practical insights that can be readily applied to tackle issues regarding migrant worker placement. It was a very engaging and thought-provoking session, and this contributed to JWB’s mission of making justice more assessable to migrant workers through capacity building with our regional network of experts,” said Vivi Octavia, Legal Officer of Justice Without Borders Indonesia.

Continuous commitment

A&O has worked with Justice Without Borders in providing pro bono legal services to migrant workers in Asia Pacific since 2017. Our Jakarta, Hong Kong and Singapore offices have worked with Justice Without Borders for both litigation and non-litigation matters.