How ‘fear-mongering’ the Trump administration is pushing in Indonesia
In a country where nearly two thirds of the population live in poverty, Indonesia has seen a surge in the number of reports of forced labour in recent months, with a surge of complaints from women who said they were beaten, sexually abused or had their children forcibly removed by their relatives.
“There are women that say they were physically raped by their relative’s relative, but there are also people that say their relatives were threatening to take their daughters to the mines,” said the head of a human rights group, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.
The Indonesian government has repeatedly denied that it is behind the rising numbers of forced labor allegations and has warned that the number could rise again.
But some women and rights groups say the government has not done enough to stop the exploitation of migrant workers, who are often paid far less than Indonesian nationals.
Last week, Indonesian Prime Minister Joko Widodo promised to make Indonesia’s labour laws more transparent and urged international agencies to help him combat the problem.
A key plank of the government’s efforts to clamp down on labor abuses was the introduction of a new law to protect migrant workers from forced labour and exploitation, the Indonesian Human Rights Commission said in a statement last week.
It also announced that the government would introduce tougher penalties for companies that engage in forced labour.
On Tuesday, the commission announced that it had filed two complaints of forced recruitment and that its members have identified more than 20 companies that have been involved in forced recruitment.
Some of those companies have been fined between Rp 1bn and Rp 2bn ($150m to Rp 6bn) by the Indonesian government, it said.
According to the Indonesian Association of Foreign Companies (Iamco), about 40 percent of the companies involved in labour recruitment in Indonesia are owned by foreign corporations.
Iamca is the largest foreign company in Indonesia with over 1,000 employees, according to the Jakarta-based lobby group.
In its report, Amnesty International said that Indonesian authorities are not doing enough to tackle forced recruitment practices, including by forcing workers to work for long hours and being indifferent about their physical and mental health.
Amnesty said that in some cases, forced recruitment has led to workers being physically and mentally abused and even killed.
Indonesia’s Labor Ministry has not responded to questions about the commission’s findings.