Indonesia, the president abolishes the "migrant card": Source of abuse and extortion
by Mathias Hariyadi

The newly elected Jokowi orders the cancellation of the infamous Ktkln, a mandatory document for workers abroad. Back at home it was a source of harassment and extortion at the hands of corrupt officials. Hundreds of cases every year. Unemployment and low labor supply feed emigration.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The president Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has ordered the abolition of the infamous Migrant Workers Card (Ktkln), a compulsory document along with the identity card, passport and visa, for Indonesian migrant workers. The decision of the head of state is the result of numerous episodes - and complaints - of corruption and abuse faced by migrants, when returning home for a short holiday or permanently. The procedure includes special queues in airports and ports, where the emigrants are subject to verification by customs officials. And, in many cases, these controls become an excuse to extort money, or other valuable assets that workers have earned through months - if not years - of toil and suffering.

In recent days, President Jokowi linked via video with Indonesian migrant workers scattered in different foreign countries: Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Egypt, Japan, Korea and Brunei. Many told stories of abuse and harassment on their return home, because of the infamous Ktkln, which becomes a pretext used by corrupt officials to extort money to facilitate their return.

Hundreds of cases of violations occur every year in the major airports of the country. Hence the intervention of the head of state, who said that "all complaints were registered and the decision is made: we will abolish the Ktkln".

Due to the high unemployment rate - especially among women - and the scarce supply of work, hundreds of thousands of Indonesian women have been forced to leave the country to seek their fortune abroad. However, they become victims of violence by their employers; cases of rapes and sexual abuse occur in particular in the nations of the Middle East and it is not uncommon that the torturers even kill their victims, to cover the crime.

According to the latest statistics, there are 512 168 Indonesian migrant workers - of both sexes - scattered around 160 countries worldwide. Of these, 258 thousand workers depend on a private employer: 168 thousand are domestic workers, 47 thousand farm laborers and 45 thousand are maids. Men are typically employed in construction and agriculture. The largest number of migrants come from Central Java, East Java, from West Nusa Tenggara and Lampung. Regarding the level of education, most have a school diploma (191 thousand), 160 thousand have finished primary school and 124 graduated high school. University graduates are few and only 352 have a master's degree or doctorate.