Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Release Rita: Migrant Workers Not to Blame for Drug Smuggling

Rita Krisdianti: Threatened with the Death Penalty
 The Indonesian Migrant Workers’ Union (SBMI) along with other unions and organisations are demanding the release of Rita Krisdianti. Rita is a migrant worker from East Java who was arrested in 2013 at Penang airport in Malaysia. The suitcase she was carrying contained 4kg of crystal meth, but Rita is not to blame. She is just the latest migrant worker to unknowingly find themselves at the bottom of a drug smuggling chain and now potentially facing the death penalty. Her case was to come before court last week but has been delayed.

Rita worked as a house maid in Hong Kong until early 2013 when her contract was stopped. The agency then moved her to Macau but after not receiving further work she planned to return home to Indonesia. Before departing though, a friend offered her a job working for a textile and clothing business. In July 2013 Rita was sent to New Delhi, India where she was given a suitcase which she was told contained clothing materials for the business. She was told to deliver it to a customer in Penang, Malaysia. Rita travelled to Penang to deliver the materials, only to be arrested and told that the suitcase actually contained 4kg of narcotics.

The case was to be brought to court 28 January 2016 but has since been delayed. Rita could be facing the death penalty. Rita is not the only victim of such harsh laws that ignore the situation of migrant workers. More than 200 Indonesian migrant workers are facing the death penalty overseas.

As SBMI explains, the majority of Indonesian migrant workers are females, from poor families, with low education, facing several social issues. Such conditions make them more susceptible to offers of work that can end up involving drugs.

Migrant workers often face terrible conditions and even violence from their employers overseas. The experiences of the two other female migrant workers from Rita’s village demonstrate the many problems they face. One of them has been a victim of sexual abuse by her employer in Singapore. The other developed a cyst while overseas but was assisted by SBMI and was able to receive medical treatment.  These are not uncommon stories among migrant workers who face huge debts, violence and exploitation. The dependency of sending and destination countries on migrant labour means governments are often not willing to take a strong stance on the rights of migrants.

Ramches from SBMI has said they are disappointed by the lack of quick response from the Jokowi-JK government in response to Rita’s court case. “Will Rita’s fate end up the same as other Indonesian migrant workers that have already been executed?”

Workers in Indonesia have begun to show their solidarity with Rita by changing their display pictures on Facebook. The hashtag #SaveRitaKrisdianti has also been widely taken up. Demonstrations have also taken place outside the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta demanding the release of Rita and safety for other Indonesian migrant workers facing the death penalty. 
Contract workers demonstrate in support of Rita
Demonstration in front of Malaysia Embassy, Jakarta 28 January

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