Indonesia seeks Malaysian promise to protect migrant workers

Migrant Care has urged both leaders to make migrant workers’ protection a priority in their discussions. AFP
Updated 29 June 2018
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Indonesia seeks Malaysian promise to protect migrant workers

  • There are about 2.7 million Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia working as domestic helpers, and plantation and construction workers
  • Indonesia and Malaysia are two of the world’s biggest producers of palm oil, accounting for roughly 90 percent of global oil palm production

JAKARTA: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has pledged to protect millions of Indonesians living and working in the country, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said after talks between the two leaders.
“I have asked about protection to migrant workers in Malaysia as well as the establishment of schools for Indonesian children there,” Widodo said during a joint press conference with Mahathir at the Bogor Palace in Bogor, West Java, on Friday.
There are about 2.7 million Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia working as domestic helpers, and plantation and construction workers — the largest concentration of the Indonesian diaspora abroad. Almost half work there illegally, according to data from the government.
Mahathir acknowledged that there are Indonesians in Malaysia who entered the country illegally, many with children. “These children need to go to schools. We already have Indonesian schools in the peninsula, but we still don’t have any in Sabah and Sarawak. We will see to it,” Mahathir said.
However, neither of the leaders said anything about the stalled negotiation of a bilateral memorandum of understanding on protection and placement of Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia, which expired in 2016.
Migrant workers advocacy group Migrant Care has urged both leaders to make migrant workers’ protection a priority in their bilateral discussions. “Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia are still prone to various abuse, such as physical, fall victim to trafficking, and some of them are on death row,” Migrant Care’s executive director, Wahyu Susilo, told Arab News.
Susilo also said the two leaders should finalize negotiations on the MoU and refer it to the principles on the ASEAN Consensus on Protection and Promotion the Rights of Migrant Workers and other international human rights instruments to protect migrant workers.
Mahathir called on Indonesia to band together to counter accusation from the EU, which aims to phase out the use of biodiesel made from palm oil by 2030, that the two countries’ palm oil plantations have caused massive deforestation and ignited climate change.
“This is not correct,” he said, adding that both Malaysia and Indonesia have the right to clear its land for wider cultivation grounds and benefit from them economically.
He said Europe was also once covered by forests, which have now been cut down.
“No one objected to it, we never objected to it. However, now when we need to have larger cultivation areas, they accuse us of destroying the environment and causing climate change,” Mahathir said.
He added that EU’s position was mainly based on economic grounds instead of environmental concerns.
Indonesia and Malaysia are two of the world’s biggest producers of palm oil, accounting for roughly 90 percent of global oil palm production.
The premier was on a two-day official visit in Indonesia, which ended Friday. It was his first visit to a Southeast Asian country since he became prime minister for the second time in May after defeating then-prime minister Najib Razak. It is customary for newly installed leaders of ASEAN countries to make their first official visits to fellow member states of the regional bloc.
“We wanted to make Indonesia as our first trip abroad because Indonesia is our closest neighbor,” Mahathir said, taking into account the family ties between people in both countries.
“We are not strangers to each other and many Malaysians are originated from Indonesia,” he added.
Mahathir and his wife Siti Hasmah arrived in Jakarta on Thursday night. Widodo and First Lady Iriana Widodo greeted the pair on the tarmac at Jakarta’s Halim Perdanakusuma airport. The last time Widodo greeted a visiting foreign dignitary at the tarmac was when he welcomed King Salman of Saudi Arabia when the latter visited Indonesia in early 2017.


UK Cabinet to meet after Britain, EU reach draft Brexit deal

Updated 13 November 2018
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UK Cabinet to meet after Britain, EU reach draft Brexit deal

LONDON: Negotiators from Britain and the European Union have struck a proposed divorce deal that will be presented to politicians on both sides for approval, officials in London and Brussels said Tuesday.
After a year and a half of stalled talks, false starts and setbacks, negotiators agreed on proposals to resolve the main outstanding issue: the Irish border.
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said the Cabinet would hold a special meeting Wednesday to consider the proposal. Its support isn’t guaranteed: May is under pressure from pro-Brexit ministers not to make further concessions to the EU.
Ambassadors from the 27 other EU countries are also due to hold a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.
May told the Cabinet earlier Tuesday that “a small number” of issues remain to be resolved in divorce negotiations with the European Union, while her deputy, David Lidington, said the two sides are “almost within touching distance” of a Brexit deal.
Britain wants to seal a deal this fall, so that Parliament has time to vote on it before the UK leaves the bloc on March 29. The European Parliament also has to approve any agreement.
Negotiators have been meeting late into the night in Brussels in a bid to close the remaining gaps.
The main obstacle has long been how to ensure there are no customs posts or other checks along the border between the UK’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Brexit.
Irish national broadcaster RTE said the draft agreement involves a common customs arrangement for the UK and the EU, to eliminate the need for border checks.
But May faces pressure from pro-Brexit Cabinet members not to agree to an arrangement that binds Britain to EU trade rules indefinitely.
May also faces growing opposition from pro-EU lawmakers, who say her proposed Brexit deal is worse than the status quo and the British public should get a new vote on whether to leave or to stay.
If there is no agreement soon, UK businesses will have to start implementing contingency plans for a “no-deal” Brexit — steps that could include cutting jobs, stockpiling goods and relocating production and services outside Britain.
Even with such measures in place, the British government says leaving the EU without a deal could cause major economic disruption, with gridlock at ports and disruption to supplies of foods, goods and medicines.
On Tuesday, the European Commission published a sheaf of notices outlining changes in a host of areas in the event of a no-deal Brexit. They point to major disruption for people and businesses: UK truckers’ licenses won’t be valid in the EU, British airlines will no longer enjoy traffic rights, and even British mineral water will cease to be recognized as such by the EU.
The EU said Tuesday it was proposing visa-free travel for UK citizens on short trips, even if there is no deal — but only if Britain reciprocates.
“We need to prepare for all options,” EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said. On a deal, he said: “We are not there yet.”
Meanwhile, official figures suggest Brexit is already having an impact on the British workforce.
The Office for National Statistics said the number of EU citizens working in the country — 2.25 million— was down 132,000 in the three months to September from the year before. That’s the largest annual fall since comparable records began in 1997.
Most of the fall is due to fewer workers from eight eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004.
Jonathan Portes, professor of economics at King’s College London, said the prospect of Brexit “has clearly made the UK a much less attractive place for Europeans to live and work.”