Govt Ensures Protection for Indonesians Overseas
Member of Commission I of the House of Representatives, Muhammad Farhan, called for a diplomatic move to provide Indonesians living abroad—notably migrant workers—with the protection and proper handling during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that such protection required good coordination with Indonesian embassies in related countries.
“Issues related to protection of Indonesians living abroad have been a never-ending task. Therefore, we have to be ready at all times, particularly in the countries vulnerable to COVID-19,” said Farhan in a public hearing held by the Working Committee for the Protection of Indonesians Overseas and Indonesian Diplomatic Mission Performance on Handling the Global COVID-19 Pandemic at the parliament complex, Jakarta, on Tuesday (07/07/2020). Among those attending the hearing were Director General for Protocol and Consular Affairs of Foreign Affairs Ministry Andy Rachmianto, officials from Army Headquarters Office, and officials from Navy Headquarters Office.
As a working partner of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Commission I—overseeing matters related to defense, foreign and information affairs—has the authority to supervise matters related to the issues, he said. The working committee was set up to ensure smooth policy implementation, supervise, and hold a meeting to resolve problems found in the implementation, and make sure that services to Indonesians overseas are effectively and optimally provided.
Indonesians living abroad, particularly immigrant workers, need government’s special attention, he added. They were already marginalized before the pandemic, and even more so these days. With a total number of 9 million Indonesian migrant workers overseas, around 55 percent of them work in Malaysia, 13 percent in Saudi Arabia, and 10 percent in Taiwan, collectively totaling to 9 million workers.
In addressing this issue, the Indonesian government needs to collaborate with various elements of the Indonesian diaspora abroad. It is also important that the government extends its support to all Indonesian migrant workers, regardless of their legal or illegal status.
With respect to the evacuation of Indonesian nationals, Farhan appreciated the government's initiative in repatriating Indonesian citizen gradually although this policy may not be easy in some countries. "India is one of the countries with rigid repatriation policy as its legislation does not allow foreign nationals out of the country. Our government realizes that repatriation cannot be done easily in some countries,” he asserted.
Previously, Director General Andy Rachmianto conveyed that protection diplomacy was one of Indonesia's foreign policy priorities. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sought to ensure that the protection of Indonesian citizens abroad could be well provided.
Budget refocusing should be allocated to help facilitate the self-repatriation of Indonesian nationals who need to return home urgently. Among these people are Indonesian migrant workers whose contracts have expired, ship crew members whose contracts are terminated, tourists, as well as the Tablighi Jamaat members whose return home has been delayed,” Rachmianto explained.
He mentioned that Foreign Ministry had so far facilitated the repatriation of 123,319 Indonesian nationals, of which the details are as follows: 10,093 were self-repatriated, 408 Tablighi Jamaat members repatriated from 11 different countries, 306 people evacuated from Wuhan and Diamond Princess cruise ship, and 24,721 other ship crew members from all over the world.
Aside from the repatriation program, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also continues to distribute free essential food supplies. As of now, the Ministry through its foreign mission offices has facilitated the distribution of 522,859 free essential food supplies for Indonesian nationals who are in need and most affected by the COVID-19. The distributed supplies include 451,325 packages in Malaysia, 43,227 packages in the Middle East, 13,374 packages in the United States, 9,384 in Asia and Pacific regions (excluding Malaysia), 5,264 packages in Europe, and 285 packages in Africa. Meanwhile, the free essential food supplies for Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia came from 6 Indonesian foreign mission offices in Malaysia (308,960 packages) and the general public (142,365 packages). (ann/es)