NGO slams new passport rule increasing burden on migrant workers

A non-governmental organization director has criticized a new regulation requiring aspiring Indonesian migrant workers to have Rp25 million on a bank account when applying for a passport was a policy based on prejudice and suspicion, The Jakarta Post Online reported on Monday.

The Immigration Office issued a circular on March 6 stipulating a bank account requirement for passport applicants. However, the new regulation will be imposed only on non-registered migrant workers who did not meet other requirements, said Agung Sampurno, spokesman of the Directorate General of Immigration.

He added that the policy was aimed at curbing the growing number of non-procedural workers going to Malaysia and Middle Eastern countries.

But Wahyu Susilo, executive director of Migrant Care NGO, argued that the new policy would potentially increase human rights violations and abuse of authority and power as well as bribery and corruption in the management of passports.

In a statement released on Sunday, Wahyu said if the circular were intended to prevent human trafficking, it would be ineffective because it would raise the risk of debt bondage against the workers, which would result in more human trafficking.

He called on President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to call the director-general of Immigration Office to account for discriminatory effects of the new regulation.