From Immigration to Integration

Beneath the glitzy, modern towers of central Jakarta, with the sun reflecting its heat upon the ground, a handful of tents are perched on the side of the road, right next to the UNHCR building in Kebon Sirih. These tents however are not temporary; these have been the permanent homes for many refugees stranded in Jakarta.

Mahmood is a 40-year-old Afghani refugee who have resided in Indonesia for over 5 years. Out of fear of being persecuted, he ran away from his home, leaving his wife and 8 kids, searching for a safe place to call home. $8000 was how much he paid the people smugglers to get him out of Afghanistan.

His journey is difficult and rough to say the least, and far from over. In 2013 he left Afghanistan in the hopes of coming to Australia. He first went to India for 12 days, then Malaysia for 4 days, and then he took a boat to Medan, and then to Jakarta. Here, he registered his name to UNHCR, before making his way to Australia.

“In the past, in January 2014, I came to Australia by boat. Then 12 days with the immigration, border protection of Australia in the big boat. After that they send me back to Jakarta, in the orange boat. My boat was demolished,” he said.

Australia has a policy of returning boats carrying refugees before it reaches its shore. In the process, boats carrying refugees are intercepted by Australia’s border force before entering Australia’s water, then refugees are ultimately transferred into a small, cramped, and dingy orange boats to be sent back to Java. Mahmood fell victim to Australia’s petty politics of the gambling of refugees’ lives in returns for popularity with its electorates. He was officially deemed a refugee by UNHCR 20 months after he first registered.

“I’m hopeless now,” he said when asked of what hopes he has.

Mahmood is just one case in many of refugees who are stuck in transit countries, in danger of returning back to their homes yet unable to go their intended destinations. In Southeast Asia alone, countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia have been the host of many refugees from Somalia, to Rohingya to Afghanistan among others.

Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) and Adeline met Mahmood and other Refugees last year to celebrate Christmas.

The problem however is that refugees in these countries ultimately have no rights. As neither Thailand, Malaysia nor Indonesia have signed or ratified the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugee Rights, they therefore have no rights in being there, nor have any rights to citizenship. They are not only living in poor conditions, but unable to receive education or proper health care, unable to work and risk being deported due to their legal status as being “illegal aliens.” As the world is becoming increasingly isolationist, the case of refugees being stuck in transit countries will only rise.

Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia claims that despite not a party to the Refugee Convention, they would provide minimal protection to refugees, including adherence to non-refoulement principle on humanitarian grounds. Yet this is promise is fragile to political changes, and does not insure refugees proper living conditions.

While the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) has a body to protect human rights, their refugee protection mandate remains weak. It is therefore necessary for states within ASEAN to ratify the Refugee Convention to assure some rights to refugees and for the region to cooperate in creating a plan of action for the protection of refugees. But more importantly, it is necessary to tackle the original reasons that cause people to flee their home. In an era where states are increasingly becoming more isolationist in a more globalised world, it is no longer possible to simply turn a blind eye against conflict that can cause an influx of people to flee their homes. Origin, transit and destination countries are responsible for protecting the rights of refugees.

In the wake of the International day of Human Rights, Mahmood’s case reminds us of the plight of those who are persecuted and risked their lives in the hopes of finding a better place to live. In the spirit of ‘gotong royong,’ we must remember that help is also needed for those who are not a citizen and who is simply looking for safety.


This article is written by Adeline Tinessia. Adeline has been intern at HRWG for the past couple of months. She is studying a bachelors of International Security Studies, taking a focus on Southeast Asia and specifically on Indonesia.






Migrant Workers’ Rights in ASEAN Region: A Baseline Study

Labour migration is a global growing concern in the 21st century. In the ASEAN region, migrant workers form the backbone of the sprawling fishing industries of Thailand, the concrete jungles of Singapore and the lucrative plantations of Malaysia. They also traverse public-private boundaries to ‘maintain’ the smooth running of households, thus allowing their employers to participate in the national workforce.

Despite this huge significance, holistic measures and legal frameworks to respect, protect and fulfill migrant workers’ rights at a regional level remain inadequate. Ideally, there should be a legally binding regional instrument that guarantees the rights of migrant workers throughout the migration cycle. However, a decade of elusive negotiations proves to be unsuccessful. ASEAN states still cannot come to an agreement on the adoption of such an instrument. As an alternative, ASEAN states have recently adopted ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers (ASEAN Consensus).

This choice is largely criticised because the document simply imposes moral weight, as opposed to legal obligations, on ASEAN states. This means that ASEAN Consensus merely governs the basic principles and norms without specifying any concrete and directly applicable measures to protect migrant workers. Furthermore, most of the principles enumerated in the ASEAN Consensus are subject to national laws of ASEAN states, making the protection of migrant workers relatively uncertain and weak.

In order to ensure the utmost protection, promotion, and enjoyment of the rights of migrant workers, it is important to understand the situation and context of human rights problems affecting migrant workers in the region. Against such a backdrop, the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (SPF) carried out a baseline study and organised a Focus Group Discussion (FGD) on 30-31 August 2018 with the purpose to collect crucial information and data from representatives of Civil Society Organization (CSO) in each ASEAN Member State (AMS). This baseline study is aimed at identifying the current conditions pertaining to the implementation of migrant workers’ rights, focusing in particular on the following issues that are already discussed in the ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers (ASEAN Consensus):

  1. decent work and social protection
  2. undocumented migrant workers and cross-cutting human rights issues
  3. access to justice
  4. information, empowerment, and recruitment
  5. repatriation and reintegration
  6. cooperation among AMS and mechanisms
  7. standard-setting and ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Family Members 

It is paramount to have a baseline study on issues that have become a political commitment of ASEAN Member States, for it could help ensure the effective implementation of such a commitment in addressing human rights abuses against migrant workers Migrant Workers’ Rights in ASEAN Region: A Baseline Study is aimed at offering an insight into the human rights situation of migrant workers in the ASEAN region post the 2017 ASEAN Consensus. As a result of collaborative work of ASEAN civil society, this book shows a common concern on the state of migrant workers as well as the hope of more collaborative work among ASEAN states to improve such situation.

Download the full book in Google Drive or Dropbox.

Prioritas Diplomasi RI Hanya Akan Berhasil Jika Demokrasi dan HAM Jadi Prinsip Utama

Siaran Pers Catatan Kritis HRWG Atas Pidato Menlu

Prioritas Diplomasi RI Hanya Akan Berhasil Jika Demokrasi dan HAM

Jadi Prinsip Utama

[Jakarta, 9 Januari 2019] – Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) mengapresiasi pidato tahunan Menteri Luar Negeri Indonesia, Retno Marsudi hari ini, yang memaparkan capaian baik di tingkat regional dan internasional, utamanya dalam berperan serta aktif pada isu Palestina, Rohingya, perlindungan warga negara Indonesia (WNI) di luar negeri dan dibentuknya agensi tunggal “Indonesian Aids”. Di samping itu, Menlu juga menyoroti berbagai tantangan ke depan seperti “me-first diplomacy”, isu-isu keamanan tradisional utamanya terorisme, perang dagang, dan tantangan dunia baru di era digital dengan meningkatnya hoax.

Menlu juga menyampaikan empat prioritas diplomasi Indonesia ke depan; diplomasi kedaulatan negara, perlindungan warga negara, diplomasi ekonomi, dan kemanusian serta perdamaian, khususnya melalui perannya sebagai anggota Dewan Keamanan PBB.

Bagi HRWG, berbagai tantangan dan prioritas terebut, hanya akan berhasil dilalui jika Indonesia terus menegakkan prinsip-prinsip hak asasi manusia (HAM) dan demokrasi di dalam merespon dan menyelesaikan – dengan dukungan-dukungan kementerian dan lembaga serta partisipasi masyarakat sipil.

Diplomasi kedaulatan yang utamanya menyoal isu Papua, tidak akan berhasil jika pemerintah masih menggunakan pendekatan keamanan dan cara-cara represif di sana. Perlindungan WNI, utamanya pekerja migran Indonesia yang bekerja di sektor rentan seperti pekerja rumah tangga, anak buah kapal, di mana Indonesia seharusnya memiliki kerangka hukum nasional yang kuat dengan meratifikasi Konvensi ILO 189 tentang kerja layak bagi Pekerja Rumah Tangga (PRT), dan Konvensi ILO 188 tentang hak dan kewajiban anak buah kapal perikanan, sayangnya justru tidak disebut dalam pidato Menlu.

Selain itu, dipomasi untuk kerjasama ekonomi, misalnya untuk melindungi produksi sawit, juga harus dibarengi dengan penegakkan prinsip-prinsip HAM dan keadilan ekologi dalam bisnis dan investasi. Jika tidak, laju investasi yang tanpa mengindahkan penghormatan, perlindungan dan pemenuhan hak-hak asasi manusia dan keadilan lingkungan akan menjadi ancaman tersendiri.

Di tengah tren global yang menuju pada ‘me first diplomacy’ dan krisis nilai-nilai multilateralisme, Indonesia justru dapat mengambil peluang di kancah global dengan perannya sebagai anggota Dewan Keamanan PBB dan pencalonan Indonesia kembali untuk menjadi anggota Dewan HAM PBB. Peran ini harus dimaksimalkan dengan mendorong penyelesaian konflik dan perang dengan tetap memegang prinsip-prinsip hak asasi manusia dengan dukungan “Indonesian Aids”. Hal ini harus diikuti dengan kemauan politik yang kuat baik di dalam dan luar negeri untuk mendorong tercapainya tujuan diplomasi kemanusiaan dan perdamaian.

Di tingkat regional, meski mendukung keketuaan Thailand sebagai ketua ASEAN tahun 2019, tetap saja, Indonesia harus memainkan peran untuk mendorong demokrasi dan penghargaan HAM di Thailand –yang kini dikuasai oleh junta militer, dan pemajaun HAM di negara-negara ASEAN. Indonesia, melalui Menlu, bersama dengan menteri luar negeri ASEAN lain, harus lebih mendorong peran Komisi HAM Antar-pemerintah ASEAN (AICHR) untuk turut aktif dalam merespon situasi HAM yang terus digerus oleh krisis demokrasi di kawasan yang stagnan dan terbilang mundur.


Daniel Awigra (+62 817-6921-757)

Deputi Direktur HRWG

Download link.


HRWG’s Critical Notes on Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs’ Speech

Indonesia’s Diplomacy Priorities will only be Successful when Principles of Democracy and Human Rights are Upheld

[Jakarta, January 9, 2019] – Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) appreciates the Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Retno Marsudi, for delivering a speech earlier today on the Ministry’s notable achievements at both regional and international levels. These achievements include, in particular, its active roles in addressing the Palestinian and Rohingya issues, protecting Indonesian citizens overseas and instituting ‘Indonesia Aids,’ which extends humanitarian assistance in times of crisis. In addition, the Minister put a spotlight on some challenges in the foreseeable future ranging from ‘me-first diplomacy’ to terrorism, trade wars and new challenges amidst heightened intensity of fake news circulation in the digital era.

The Minister put forward four priorities of Indonesian diplomacy in the near future: state sovereignty diplomacy, protection of citizens, economic diplomacy, and humanitarian and peace diplomacy, taking account of its current role as a UN Security Council member.

HRWG is of the opinion that efforts to overcome challenges and achieve the aforementioned priorities will come to fruition only when Indonesia continues to uphold the principles of human rights and democracy, in collaboration with relevant governmental bodies and civil society.

Sovereignty diplomacy, especially on the issues of Papua, will be doomed to failure if the State insists on employing security approaches and repression. It is also of note that, on the issue of ‘protection of Indonesian citizens overseas,’ the Minister failed to put into perspective some fundamental yet nonexistent protection mechanisms for its sizeable slice of population overseas: Indonesian migrant workers who work in vulnerable sectors, such as fishing industry and domestic work. Indonesia should urgently ratify the ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers and ILO Convention 188 on Decent Work in Fishing Industry.

Diplomacy on economic cooperation to protect palm production, for instance, must be in line with the principles of human rights and environmental justice, otherwise it will pose a menace to the attainment of the goal itself.

Amidst the global trend of ‘me-first diplomacy’ and the crisis of multilateralism, Indonesia should avail itself of the opportunity to play its role as a UN Security Council member, and a candidate for a UN Human Rights Council member, by championing conflict and war resolutions while adhering to human rights principles, with the support of ‘Indonesia Aids.’ Strong political will, at both domestic and international levels, is necessary to achieve Indonesia’s humanitarian and peace diplomacy goals.

At the regional level, despite the Thai chairmanship of ASEAN, Indonesia should continue to push for democracy and the respect of human rights in Thailand, which is under military junta, and other ASEAN countries. Indonesia, through its Minister of Foreign Affairs, should work together to support the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) in responding to various human rights violations that are taking place in ASEAN’s backyard.

For more information, please contact Mr. Daniel Awigra (Deputy Director, Human Rights Working Group) through email at or mobile phone at +62817 6921757.

Download link.