Migrant workers often move to new countries when their employment ends, but the problems they faced at previous jobs can often remain unresolved. JWB recently settled its first case involving a worker who returned home then migrated elsewhere again, setting a precedent for how to help those who are regularly on the move.
Nisa* was an Indonesian migrant domestic worker in Singapore who faced conditions that no one should have to endure.
She faced physical and verbal abuse, was hit by her employer’s daughter and attacked by the family’s dog – just two instances of her unsafe work environment. To make matters worse, her employer refused to pay her medical expenses for seeing a doctor, even though she began running a fever after the dog bite.
These abuses were on top of no rest days and ongoing isolation when her employer prevented her from using mobile phones.
Connecting one case across three countries
Nisa’s plight came to light when she reported her mistreatment to the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME), a Singapore frontline organisation providing assistance to abused and exploited migrant workers.
With Nisa already returned home, her case came to Justice Without Borders (JWB). With the facts in hand, we quickly found a pro bono lawyer from K&L Gates Straits Law LLC in Singapore to take up her case.
Complicating matters however, Nisa moved on to another country to work again as a domestic worker to support her family. This presented a logistical and administrative challenge – Nisa was in a third country, her lawyer and ex-employer were in Singapore, while any settlement she obtained would likely need to be wired home to Indonesia. JWB’s Singapore and Indonesia offices bridged the challenge by coordinating between Nisa and her lawyer in Singapore. We worked to facilitate contact, ensure translations occurred, and monitored the legal strategy that our pro bono lawyers were carrying out.
By March this year, our lawyers had successfully settled the case and received payment from Nisa’s former employer, amounting to nearly 7 months’ local salary in her hometown. JWB is now completing the case by facilitating safe transfer of her funds back to her family in Indonesia.
This experience highlighted the many logistical challenges that follow workers who must travel abroad for work. Our success here also sets the groundwork for developing good practices that will make cross-border legal assistance more effective, efficient, affordable, and hopefully ordinary. .
*Names have been changed to protect the client’s identity.