TKI2 – Masih Banyak Masalah – Help These Girls!

I was once gravely insulted by an employment agent in Singapore. The ghastly old bat called me a liberal! I’d been making waves about a maltreated Javanese girl, sister of a close friend, and the harpy wasn’t best pleased with me.

So incensed was I by her calumny that I wrote a little novel about the plight of the girls from Indonesia who go abroad to find work.  The Indonesian acronym for such a person is TKI.


  • ‘Maid in Singapore’ is long since out of print, but it seems the plight of these lassies (men who go abroad to work also have problems, but I reckon the girls are much more vulnerable) continues unabated.

This view derives from an article in the Jakarta Globe.

It is not so much concerned with the dreadful things that happen to them when they reach their destinations, cheated, brutalised and raped, in all too many cases, but with the abominable treatment they face when they get home, at the special terminal at Soekano Hatta Airport in the capital of their own country. 

The JG actually describes Selapajang Terminal as notorious and small wonder, if the allegations of discrimination and extortion laid by Anis Hidayah, executive director of the group Migrant Care, are anywhere near accurate. And I’d say they are.

Anis Hidayah


“In 2006, the UN special rapporteur on migrant worker rights recommended to the government that the migrant worker terminal be closed down,” she said. “Besides the discriminative practices, the terminal fails to serve the workers by consistently providing them with expensive and unsafe onward transportation.”

…the migrant worker terminal has long been beset by allegations of extortion, mistreatment and even sexual abuse of returning workers by terminal officials.

That airport is a source of vexation to us ordinary travellers too. My normally equable temper is often lost when badgered by obtrusive taxi-drivers who won’t take no for an answer.

But we can refuse! There is the excellent hourly Damri bus service, Rp.35000, straight into the city, to the main bus terminals whence buses go to all parts of the country.

Workers have frequently complained about paying exorbitant rates for transportation home because they are not allowed to be picked up by family or friends.

Public minivan drivers at the terminal have even been accused of robbing their passengers, who are often carrying months’ worth of wages, and leaving them stranded by the side of the road.

In a report to the UN’s Committee Against Torture in April 2008, the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) said that “Terminal 3 is intended as a protection effort for migrant workers, but in practice, it is a place of deception, exploitation, robbery and other forms of abuse against Indonesian migrant workers,

…the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) to the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council. “The commission observed that these workers, especially women workers, are often ill-treated during departure, transit, [in the] workplace and [upon] return,” Komnas HAM said. “The commission underlined the call of migrant workers for the government to close [Selapajang Terminal] since many acts of enforced payment, ill-treatment, fraud and sexual harassment occurred in this terminal.”

Who’s in charge?

Jumhur Hidayat, head of the National Agency for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers (BNP2TKI), acknowledges the problems at the terminal and backs the call to close it, but says his agency is powerless to do anything about it.

  • Jumhur Hidayat
  • Testifying on Thursday before the House of Representatives’ Commission IX, which oversees labor affairs, he said the terminal fell under the purview of the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry….

One MP asked Jumhur “Who’s in charge there and what are they doing? How can there be claims that the quality of service there is good when there are so many complaints? We need to address this issue together,” .

Another followed up by questioning the authorities’ decision to prohibit public access to the terminal…“Has it worked in keeping the criminal element at bay? We shouldn’t be fighting criminals by segregating the migrant workers from the general public.”

But suddenly the report becomes intriguing.

Thursday’s hearing came amid allegations that a member of Jumhur’s family was behind the mark-ups at the terminal. 

Posts from the Twitter account @korbanbnp2tki claimed that the person, identified only as Agung, took a 50 percent cut of all the revenue from the transportation, food, phone voucher, money-changer and other concessions there, making “billions of rupiah” a month.

Jumhur called the allegation “trash.”

And trash they may be. But one hopes the police are into this. And all it takes is for the Ministry to open up the terminal to the public.

Then there’d be plenty of witnesses to what goes on!

These kids are mostly village girls, naive, not very well-educated, and with a long road home from Jakarta’s airport. It’s shameful that after toiling hard for long periods overseas, they should be ripped off when that Jumhur and his staff ought to be protecting them.