Apriadi Gunawan, Medan – The North Sumatra Police intercepted an attempt to smuggle 91 Indonesian migrant workers to Selangor, Malaysia, as the government temporarily stopped sending its citizens to work in the neighboring country.
Indonesia has temporarily stopped sending its citizens to work in Malaysia, including thousands recruited for the plantation sector, citing a breach in a worker-recruitment deal signed between the two countries.
North Sumatra Police water- and air-police director Toni Ariadi Effendi said the police detained a boat and its four crew members, which was carrying the workers, on Sei Silau waters in Asahan regency, on early Tuesday morning.
They found dozens of workers hailing from various regions of the archipelago: Special Region of Aceh, North Sumatra, West Sumatra, Jambi, Bengkulu, East Java, East Nusa Tenggara and West Nusa Tenggara
The crew members have been arrested for questioning. They could face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and Rp 15 billion (US$334,901) fine.
The North Sumatra Police has intercepted many attempts to send migrant workers in the past few years. "Unfortunately, some attempts made it through," he said.
Indonesian undocumented workers have fallen victim to a lack of protection from unsafe channels and human trafficking as they risk their lives to get jobs in Malaysia.
Until April, Indonesia and Malaysia have been unable to conclude a five-year negotiation with a renewed agreement on Indonesian workers. One of the contentious issues is Malaysia's Maid Online direct-hiring platform that allows migrant-domestic workers to enter Malaysia without going through appropriate procedures.
The government earlier this month stopped sending Indonesian migrant workers to Malaysia after it was revealed that the recipient country was recruiting laborers outside of the One Channel System that was agreed upon in a bilateral memorandum of understanding (MoU) in April.
Malaysia's Human Resources Minister M Saravanan said last week that both parties agreed to integrate the existing system after a recent discussion with Indonesia, noting that there was no requirement in the MoU to scrap the Maid Online System (SMO) Malaysia was using to source domestic helpers.
But the Indonesian side insists the discussion was informal and that the final decision would remain with Jakarta, as it did not agree to integrating the SMO.
The SMO has been linked to allegations of trafficking and forced labor. It currently allows Indonesian migrant workers to go to Malaysia with a tourist visa, thus circumventing the Indonesian recruitment system.