The condition of some migrant workers coming from underdeveloped and developing countries is quite worrying. There are a lot of facts pointing out that their situation needs more attention.
Since departure, for example, a lot of migrant workers are promised jobs with adequate wages and treatment. Yet, the agents sometimes deceive them. In fact, abuse still exists in the workplace, be it sexual harassments or unfairness in salary allocation, which are so unjust to the migrant workers.
The migrant workers might experience workplace abuse psychologically, physically, sexually, or even the combination of those three. The abuse indeed began when they were still attached to their agents. As what migrant workers in Dubai has undergone in Dubai, UAE. Human Rights Watch in March 30, 2006 reported that between May and December 2005, at least eight major strikes took place. Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch stated that one of the world's largest construction booms is feeding off of workers in Dubai, but they're treated as less than human. This leads to a major riot by the skyscrapers construction and unfortunately UAE's response was not as fast as expected.
The article further says:
...The UAE government has been unwilling to make a real commitment to stop systematic abuses by employers, including the extended non-payment of wages, the denial of proper medical care, and the squalid conditions in which most migrant workers live. Migrant workers comprise nearly 90 percent of the workforce in the private sector in the UAE. They are denied basic rights such as freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Human Rights Watch urged the UAE government to drastically expand its staff overseeing migrant labor treatment. According to government sources, the ministry of labor employs only 80 inspectors to oversee the activities of nearly 200,000 businesses that sponsor and employ migrant workers.
Other terrible example is the migrant workers abuse that happened in Malaysia in 2004. 90 per cent of 240,000 migrants who work in Malaysia are Indonesian. Unfortunately, the migrant workers are being abused, which was a fault done not only by a single party, but because both countries' policies fail to protect the migrant rights. The Human Rights Watch reports documented how the migrants typically worked, grueling 16 to 18 hour days, seven days a week, and earn less than U.S. $0.25 per hour. The situation was worse because both countries did not have adequate policies to protect the migrant workers' rights. Malaysia's laws excluded domestic workers from most labor protections and Indonesia did not yet have any specific laws protecting migrant workers. The Human Rights Watch said that the two governments must amend labor laws, rigorously monitor labor agencies, and provide quality support services to victims.
One story from Zakiah may open your eyes. She is an Indonesian migrant who worked in Malaysia. She was raped by her master not only once, but once a day, consecutively for three months. When the action was revealed, justice was not what she received. Instead, she was sent back home with no money in her pocket, not even her wage.
Another desperate story comes from Christina Suarez who was working in Dubai with the other 24 Filipino and Indonesian migrants. She was locked up inside the agency for 45 days, with one inadequate meal in a day. Not only that, the agency told them that they owed the agency 1,500 Dhm which was their three month salary as an up-front payment. What kind of justice is that?
There might be question: Why don't they just runaway? Unfortunately that is easier said than done. There are some factors that prevent them from doing so such as:
- They are threatened by their mistresses. The threat could be anything, mostly pay-cut. After all, their salary has been so low; a pay-cut would mean free work.
- The chance to runaway is very small. In some cases, like Suarez's, the migrants are locked up even more than a month. They are prohibited from going out and meeting with people.
- Keberadaan mereka disana sebagai tenaga kerja ilegal yang membuat mereka tidak punya kekuatan untuk melawan hukum disana. Karena dengan status mereka yang ilegal, itu juga merupakan sebuah bentuk pelanggaran hukum.
- Some migrants work as illegal workers. The absence of papers and license is enough to frighten them from being deported from the country. This gives a freedom to the employers to intimidate them and exploit them the most.
The abuse has resulted in a deep trauma to the migrants. Some even tried to commit suicide. Cicih, an Indonesian migrant worker who worked in Doha, Qatar jumped from the rooftop building to runaway from her mistress. Fortunately she did not die, yet she was injured badly.
The abuse could have been prevented from happening. The country in which the migrant workers work in should reform its labor laws to conform to international standards set by the International Labor Organization, and become a party to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. This is to ensure that the laws have considered protecting the human rights of migrant workers. Had this been done, migrant workers can breathe a little more easily and enjoy a greater human rights realization in the place where they work.