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Daily Archives: May 12, 2008

Indonesian workers tired of being ‘ripped-off’

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 by Nigel Huxtable

Cinta, a slight 24 year old woman and mother of one was promised a job in Hong Kong, then Macau and now finds herself stranded here – homeless, unemployed and unable to pay for a ticket home to Indonesia.

Encouraged overseas by a government that can't provide enough jobs for its people and drawn by higher salaries that can be used to finance the lives of family members, a rising number of Indonesian migrant workers are being lured to Macau.
A local labour law that doesn't provide any protection and the unscrupulous actions of agents – the middle men that promise employment upon arrival in Macau – is resulting in many who come here overstaying their visas and being forced to live illegally, says Erik Lestari, the assistant treasurer and member advocate of the Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers.
Having to leave Indonesia to find a job that would finance the loan repayments of her bankrupt father and look after the welfare of her two-year-old daughter, Cinta (a name made up to protect her identity) signed on with an agency that promised her employment in Hong Kong. She moved to the city in September last year.
After a month of working as a live-in domestic helper and taking care of a child, her employing family terminated the contract because of language difficulties – Cinta can't speak English.
The agency then suggested she travel to its office in Macau where many jobs were waiting. Upon arrival she was again sent to work with a family, this time to take care of a grandmother. The agency promised it would organise a contract and the necessary visa. The news was welcomed by Cinta whose visa was quickly running out.
However things soon changed and she was asked to report back to the agency.
“They said the family didn't receive the quota from the labour department to employ me,” says Cinta, “so I no longer had a job here”.
Her situation then got worse. The agency said it would send her to interviews and try and find another full time position, however none was forthcoming.
Soon her visa expired which made the task of returning home more difficult.
“As an 'overstayer' the immigration department will launch an investigation if you try and leave” said Ms  Lestari.
An official investigation can leave the “overstayer” in limbo for an even longer period of time and can also restrict that persons immigration chances in the future.
Without a job Cinta's situation is now desperate. The association, which is in its fourth year also runs a shelter for Indonesians with such problems. Cinta now lives at the temporary facility while the group tries to convince the Indonesian government to buy her a ticket home.
“Each immigrant worker pays USD150 of insurance to the government before they leave as a type of insurance for when things go wrong,” says Ms Lestari.
“So they have to help us in this situation.”
Overstaying a visa is very common amongst the Indonesian community, says the members' advocate. She blames agencies who often don't deliver on promised jobs and bring immigrants here and then leave them with few options. The companies that are run out of Indonesia, Macau, Hong Kong and the mainland also often don't fulfil their obligations when a recruit's job finishes which also leaves to visa breaches, says Ms Lestari.
Conditions of employment contracts include a plane ticket home if the job ends or is terminated, however agents often don't fulfil the promise leaving the immigrant worker stranded in Macau.
“Many people here have overstayed. In Indonesia the agency promises a job and when they arrive the job isn't arranged straight away, then the person will soon overstay their 10-day entry visa,” says Ms Lestari.

2,500 patacas a month
The association's member advocate is also in Macau for economic reasons. Ms Lestari arrived in Macau in 2005 and works as a domestic helper for a local family. She left Indonesia looking for a job that would help pay for her 17 year old sister's education, who still lives in central Java.
Of the 2,500 patacas a month she earns – a third of the average wage and considered a standard salary for an immigrant worker – Ms Lestari manages to send home approximately 1,000 patacas a month. In Indonesia the salary she could earn for the same job would be less than half.
Ms Lestari is also one of the luckier domestic workers as she is able to live with her employing family which helps keeps costs down. To keep food costs low she eats with other migrant workers and they organise their own entertainment so they don't have to spend money travelling or going out.
One of the largest expenses she faces are phone calls to family in Indonesia which can climb up to 500 patacas a month.
Most Indonesians employed in Macau work as domestic helpers, hotel staff, security guards and sauna workers.
There are more than 10,000 Indonesians currently working in Macau, estimates Ms Lestari, although the number fluctuates as most stay for only up to two years.
The majority of problems the association sees are employment agency related,  including promised jobs that never materialise and exorbitant charges.
On average agencies charge workers a fee of three month's salary for a placement in Macau and the association sees many cases of contracts being terminated once the fee has been paid.
“They are just using us to earn money and we need help from the government to protect our rights,” says Ms Lestari.
Most only venture overseas to earn money to send home and would return if the economic conditions were better, says Ms Lestari.
“We must go overseas because our income is not good enough,” she says.
Yesterday the group came together to sing, dance, eat and discuss their problems at a spot in the city centre. Amongst the group were many young Indonesians.
It is common for under-age workers to be sent overseas with false documents, says Ms Lestari, especially if they look old enough to work.
The Indonesian government encourages its citizens to move overseas to work because of the economic returns, claims Ms Lestari.
This year it has a target of sending one million workers to countries such as Macau, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, USA and Australia and estimates this will return approximately three billion patacas in wealth to the country, says Ms Lestari.
Cinta's hopes of sending home patacas look to have come to an end as she desperately waits for news from the Indonesian government about a ticket home. She says she has “surrendered” herself to the labour department which says it can not do anything unless she presents a plane ticket to Indonesia.
“I have been trying to do my best and think of my child's future,” she says as tears involuntarily  well in her eyes.
“Now I am scarred, worried and confused, I don't think there is any hope and I can't go back without any help.”

Food crisis due to too many people: Britain’s Prince Philip

Rising food prices are due to overpopulation, Britain's Prince Philip said in a rare documentary on Queen Elizabeth II's husband of 60 years, to be broadcast from today.
"The food prices are going up — everyone thinks it's to do with not enough food, but it's really that demand is too great, too many people," said the outspoken royal, 86, according to Sunday newspapers.
"It's a little embarrassing for everybody, no one quite knows how to handle it."
The monarch's consort is expected to keep out of political affairs.
The Duke of Edinburgh agreed to cooperate with a fly-on-the-wall documentary because he was worried about his gaffe-prone and grumpy image and wanted a "legacy" film about his life, said The Mail yesterday.
"The Duke: A Portrait of Prince Philip" is a two-part documentary to be aired today and tomorrow on ITV television, which has been given unparalleled access to the prince, who rarely steps out of Queen Elizabeth's shadow and into the spotlight alone.
The programme will portray Prince Philip as a maverick environmental campaigner, speaking out on issues including conservation, over-population and animal welfare.
The prince reflects on bringing together conservationists and religious leaders — including the pope — to help spread his environmental message.
"It seemed to me that most religions attributed the world to some special creation and I said, 'Well look, if you believe God created the world you ought to take an interest in its well-being."
The programme includes archive footage and events up to the recent state visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his new wife Carla Bruni.

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