New Initiative Empowers Local Communities

October 18, 2018
Caseworkers at a JWB training in Indonesia

This clinic taught me how to help migrant workers with different cases. I also learned how to help my husband with his unpaid wages claim and how to collect evidence of poor working and living conditions during his time working on the ship.”- Clinic Participant, Indramayu, Indonesia.

Our latest initiative is a Case Clinic for Migrant Workers in Indonesia! The Warung Konsultasi Buruh Migran helps migrant workers obtain advice on their cases from JWB’s volunteer lawyers.

These clinics are the second stage in our capacity building programme for migrant aid organisations in Indonesia. Following basic training in identifying claims and pursuing legal remedies, the clinics help caseworkers practice their skills on real cases with our guidance.

JWB’s foundational trainings have covered much of Java and southern Sumatra.

The Case Clinic is part of our tiered capacity-building work in Indonesia.  Going far beyond one-off trainings, the program is structured to systematically and sustainably deepen each community’s capacity for helping migrant workers. Partners in the eight locations shown above having completed basic skills training, and have moved on to putting their new-found skills into practice, beginning with our case clinics for migrant workers.

Caseworkers complete these clinics with a stronger hands-on understanding of how to better manage cases that migrant workers bring, whether they manage the case themselves or in partnership with JWB on cross-border claims.  

OUR FIRST CASE CLINIC: INDRAMAYU

Centered in the north of West Java regency, we conducted our first clinic with the local migrant worker union SBMI Indramayu (Serikat Buruh Migran Indonesia). The region they serve is the top sending province for Indonesian workers heading abroad, making it an excellent first stop for our clinical work. Read more about our previous trainings with SBMI Indramayu in English or Bahasa Indonesia.

Our Jakarta-based team travelled 200 kilometres east, accompanied by volunteer lawyers, law lecturers and law students from the University of Indonesia’s Faculty of Law. Over thirty enthusiastic participants greeted us, half of whom had attended JWB’s previous basic training event. Joining them were newly participating community members who had faced challenges with their own employment abroad.

FINDING THE RIGHT REMEDIES FOR THE CASE

Prior to the clinic, caseworkers identified cases from migrant worker victims in their local communities. They conducted case intake using JWB’s sample form, writing down essential information such as the client’s host country, types of claims and length of employment.

Participants brought the cases to the Clinic for consultation with JWB staff and our volunteer lawyers. Suitable cases were referred to us for potential cross-border claims against employers or employment agencies in Hong Kong or Singapore. For others, we found local solutions or referrals to appropriate organisations.

JWB’s Indonesia Head of Office Sri Aryani conducting a training in Indonesia.

The event began with participant sharing about the types of cases they had encountered. These included unpaid wages, agency fee overcharging, illness, injury, sexual abuse and death abroad.

For each type of case, JWB staff and partners introduced possible legal remedies, drawing on their varied backgrounds and expertise in law and migration.

Participants then turned to the specific cases they had brought. They put their previous training to use discussing the potential legal remedies for each of the issues identified. Facilitators guided participants in identifying local Indonesian and host country remedies.

Cases included massive illegal overcharging of recruitment fees by employment agencies, unpaid wages for over five years of work, and false imprisonment, where the worker was abused and forcibly prevented from leaving her employer.

Workers’ cases covered a broad number of countries. Aside from our host jurisdictions of Hong Kong and Singapore, they involved workers placed in Taiwan, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. JWB staff and volunteer lawyers addressed all cases, advising participants on next steps that they can directly take, such as referring the case to JWB, contacting the Indonesian embassy in the host country, requesting documents from the agency as evidence, or pursuing civil claims within Indonesia.

FROM CLINICS TO SUSTAINABLE CASEWORK

Caseworkers at a JWB training in Indonesia.

The case clinic represents merely the next step in ensuring a sustainable lifeline to legal aid in Indramayu. One participant expressed her excitement at growing the program:  “We hope this engagement will continue in our village, with more people invited to learn how to handle migrant worker cases, as our village sends many workers abroad.”

JWB will continue working with SBMI Indramayu on cross-border civil cases, while helping them grow their capacity further as they take on more cases. We thank our partners SBMI Indramayu, the University of Indonesia, and our volunteer lawyers. We look forward to continue working with these partners to ensure that victims can continue to seek justice against their abusers, even after returning home.