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PHOTO: GITA LAL FOR TEMPO

SPECIAL REPORT MIGRANT WORKERS

TEKONGS
AND
MIGRANT
WORKERS

EVERY year, about 50,000 male and female migrant workers


from West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) province head overseas in
search of employment. This area is the second largest supplier of
laborers after East Java, many of them ending up in neighboring
Malaysia: the women as domestic maids and the men working
in rubber or palm oil plantations. Despite the presence of
government recruiting offices, almost all of the workers in NTB
turn to local middlemen, from processing their paperwork to
getting them their jobs. These groups of brokers, locally known
as tekongs, have grown immensely wealthy from this business
of exporting workers, consequently wielding considerable
influence and power over the villagers. Gita Lal and stringer
Pikong Rachmawati reports on the tekong syndicates of NTB.

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SPECIAL REPORT MIGRANT WORKERS

ALKING with a swagger, Junaidi seemed


happy to be home, after a work stint in Malaysia. He was fresh out
of cash, but he was not indebted to anyone.
Not until I meet my tekong, he laughed, referring to his agent. Junaidis friends milled
around him at his village in the Tangkeban
hamlet of Merembu, West Lombok, to hear
his stories of working overseas.
Yet, looking around his village, at the unpaved road and at jobless men playing carom board games outside their dilapidated
homes, Junaidi was glad he had a job waiting for him in Malaysia.
In his late 30s, Junaidi has lost count of
the number of times he has traveled since
1999 from Merembu to Malaysia, mostly working on oil palm plantations. He is
not the only migrant worker in Merembu.
Over 70 percent of the 300 households in
the village have multiple family members
working in Malaysia, whether in construction, oil palm plantations or refineries.
Like many migrant workers from Merembu, getting a job in Malaysia depended
almost entirely on tekongs, the local term
for employment agents or brokers, not on
the local village administration or Migrant
Workers Placement Agencies (PJTKI).
I have used my tekong since 1999. I paid
him Rp1.7 million to work in plantations
in Malaysia, Junaidi said, recalling a time
years ago, when he travelled by sea to reach
his destination. From getting a job, to arranging the necessary paperwork and his
airfare, Junaidi relies totally on his tekong.
All my paperwork is done by the tekong.
Migrant workers are free to process their
papers themselves at the PJTKI, but nobody does it because they consider it too
much of a bother, as they must travel back
and forth to the PJTKI offices, located kilometers away from their villages. Through

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| APRIL 15, 2012

a broker, all I do is wait for him to tell me


when I am supposed to leave for Malaysia.
Sure, directly dealing with the PJTKI would
be cheaper, but traveling back and forth is a
big bother, explained Junaidi.
He admitted that he has stuck to his old
broker, whom he has used for years, to get
him back to Malaysia this year. The money
he has earned so far, has helped him build
a solid homenot a makeshift hutfor his
family in Merembu, and to provide money
for his childrens education.
When Junaidi was asked why he preferred Malaysia over Hong Kong, Singapore, Qatar, Saudi Arabia or South Korea
the other destinations for migrant workershe said, My tekong gets me jobs only
in Malaysia.
The same story can be heard in other villages, like Suntalangu in East Lombok, located some 75 kilometers from the beaches
and hip residential areas of Senggigi.
Ismail, 27, a bachelor, said he had worked
for six years in Malaysia, at a palm oil plantation and at a construction site. Some of
the money he has saved was used to court a
girl he intended to marry. But he definitely
plans to go back to Malaysia after the wedding. Its quite normal in our village. After marriage, we head back there. Finding
work here is difficult, Ismail said. Like Junaidi, he relies totally on his middleman.
Sixty-five-year-old Papuq Marin, a woman farmer, was proud of her brick-walled
house, painted bright pink. The house was
built from money sent by her two sons
Rahman and Turmuji. Both my sons only
completed elementary school. As soon as
they became teenagers, they asked for my
permission to work in Malaysia, to improve
their lives. Then they looked for a broker,
Papuq said.
Special Relations
So who are these brokers or middlemen

and why do so many villagers in NTB depend on them for work?


Muhammad Saleh, who heads the West
Nusa Tenggara Office of Workers Placement, Services and Protection (BP3TKI)
admitted that brokers play an important
role in providing people with jobs, because
theyand not the administrationwere
most knowledgeable about the business of
sending workers overseas.
There are two types of brokers in NTB
province: those who send workers to the
Asia Pacific nations, and those who send
workers to the Middle East. Middlemen interviewed said that those sending workers to Saudi Arabia would never think of
switching and sending workers off to another country, like Malaysia.
Brokers have their own network of
placement firms, in specific countries.
They have their own channels to expedite
documentation, from passports, birth certificates to medical check-ups, Saleh said.
They would therefore convince their clientswhether groups from a single village

PHOTO: GITA LAL FOR TEMPO

THE MIDDLEMENS
MONOPOLY

the case fell apart in court.


They had nothing against her, since no
tekong usually have official papers. She
simply claimed that she had never meant
to send them overseasonly to Jakarta,
Saleh said. He said that another problem
was the low education and literacy levels of
the workers. He claimed that of more than
5,000 workers from NTB, sent overseas last
January and February, completed only primary school.

or multiple villagesto aim only for Malaysia for instance, or only for Saudi Arabia.
Brokers in reality are recruiters, employed by placement agencies. Due to the
scarcity of jobs in many provinces, including NTB, these firms have mushroomed
at an alarming rate. There are so many of
them that quality control and prevention of
abuse, has become difficult to implement.
With minimum oversight, the tendency for
abuse or fraud has increased.
The PJTKIs are aware of the significant
mark-ups of fees by brokers, but they still
depend on these brokers because even
they believe it is impossible to gain access
to large communities of migrant workers
without the assistance of brokers.
Saleh said eventhe PJTKI firms had complained about how much commission brokers extracted from the workers they manage to send overseas. In September last
year, he tried to prevent some brokers
from sending off five illegal workers overseas. The broker in question was a woman
named Ojah, whom the Police arrested, but

A Matter of Expediency
Ibrahim, a native from Tanah Beak, in
Central Lombok has been a broker for 10
years. He first began by approaching potential migrant workers and their familiesgoing from village to village in every district,
and then door to door.
Workers are aware that going directly
to a PJTKI would be far cheaper than being managed by brokers. Heading to Malaysia, for instance, would cost a worker
between Rp2 million to Rp2.5 million if he
or she handled it personally. With brokers
it would cost a migrant worker up to Rp4.5
million. Nearly Rp2 million is pocketed by
the broker.
However, Ibrahim pointed out that the
tekong, has become very important for
the people of Lombok. Many would-be-migrant workers actually seek out these brokers, in order to help them get jobs overseas. People place their trust in these brokers, Ibrahim told Tempo.
We visit potential migrant workers several times. When we have convinced them
to go and work abroad, and they come
home successful, the news spreads around.
Thats when we become in great demand,
Ibrahim said.
Aside from recruiting workers in West
Lombok, Ibrahim also seeks out workers
in central, east and North Lombok. But he
only knows how to send workers to Malaysia, since he started working as a middlemen in 2002, a time when he had few competitors. Today, new brokers are cropping
up everywhere. More often than not, former workers in Malaysia end up being his
competitors. They themselves become
competent in sending off workers to Malaysia and which Malaysian individuals or

companies need Indonesian workers.


None of the brokers have papers registering them as official agents. All is based on
trust. Anybody can be a broker, he said.
Preventing Abuse
Due to the migrant workers lack of education, there have been a string of cases
when workers are cheated by brokers. One
such case was handled last February by
Habiburahman, an activist working on behalf of migrant workers. Four of them who
had each shelled out Rp4 million were sent
nowhere because the broker who promised them working visas got them tourist
visas instead. There was no agency or employer available to help them out of their dilemma because they had depended totally
on their brokers.
The mushrooming of brokers has led the
local administration to be more aware of
the problem. Officials today have become
more strict about inspecting documents issued to migrant workers. Since 2011, brokers say they find it more difficult to process ID cards, and even harder to obtain
birth certificates, since they need to be
stamped by the local court. Family documents as well as written permission from
family members are now required, especially for female workers. Brokers also complain about the Immigration Office tightening up procedures to obtain passports.
Kasdiono, who owns Jasatama Widya
Perkasa, a PJTKI in Mataram, explained
that brokers should not be part of the recruiting system of migrant worker recruitment, because official responsibility in cases of emergencies comes into question. A
migrant worker, he explained, should ideally deal directly with foreign recruiting
companies. However, this is difficult because of the distances between the firms
and the workers places of origin. Also,
these workers have admitted to either not
having the capacity nor the inclination to
go after their own documentation.
If brokers do well, it is because job recruitment centers are non-existent here
and the local administration does not have
the manpower nor capacity to manage recruitment functions, Kasdiono said. The
vacuum has been efficiently filled by bro-

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SPECIAL REPORT MIGRANT WORKERS

and built a home. There is no way I could


have achieved all this as a school teacher,
he said. As soon as Adenans good name
spread, people in search of jobs sought him
out.

Fees
A tekong is said to have succeeded after
having hit the five year mark, or is able to
send off anywhere between 20 to 50 workers overseas each month. Whatever the
jobdomestic service for female workers
or working in plantation for menthese
brokers make anywhere between Rp1 million to Rp2 million per worker. On a good
month, brokers can net Rp100 million.
Some brokers ask for a 50 percent down
payment, while a few insist on the full fee
when they get the jobs. Many workers, however, end up having a part of their monthly or weekly income, withheld to pay back
their middlemen.
In the first two months of this year alone,
a total of 5,667 NTB residents worked overseas. Of this figure, 5,554 of them ended up
in west Malaysia and the rest in east Malaysia.
The fee for male workers wanting to go
to Saudi Arabia is anywhere between Rp16
million to Rp17 million. For those going
to South Korea, the fee,for both men and
women, is anywhere between Rp23 million

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to Rp30 million. Most of the jobs taken up


by Indonesians in South Korea are in factories.
Getting Rich
It is not difficult to find the house of a rich
broker in NTB. Take the home of Haji Adenan, in the village of Bagu, Central Lombok.
Adenans home stands on a 400 squaremeter plot of land, a portion of which is
planted with fruit trees. Adenan has been
a broker for 13 years. Today, he makes more
money as a broker than as a religious studies teacher in Lombok, his previous occupation. He reached his peak between 1998
to 2005, when he managed to send off up to
50 migrant workers each month.
With that money, I bought land, a car

MIGRANT WORKERS FROM WEST NUSA TENGGARA


YEAR

REMITTANCES
(Rp billion)

HUMAN
TRAFFICKING

DEPORTATION
CASES

2009

645

118

4,222

2010

538

102

3,232

2011

506

93

2,212

2012

58*

5**

2,000***

Note :
* January, Febuary
** January-March
*** estimated

SOURCES: DISNAKER NTB, BP3TKI NTB

PHOTOS: GITA LAL FOR TEMPO

kers and middlemen who see the opportunity to make money out of peoples needs
for jobs. Moh. Mokhlis, head of the NTB
Manpower Office (Disnaker), agrees.

Moratorium
Today, however, brokers are not doing
so well, given the government moratorium
on sending female workers to Saudi Arabia
and Malaysia.
In early March, the Foreign Ministry said
that Indonesia would continue its ban on
sending maids to Saudi Arabia and other
countries in the Middle East until the countries in question signed bilateral agreements to protect its workers. Indonesia
stopped sending workers to Saudi Arabia
last year after scores of Indonesian maids
were abused by their employers.
Many brokers who made money sending
maids to Saudi have suffered significantly, and lost their jobs. Take Suharman, another tekong from Gelogor. These moratoriums are really hitting people in the low
income bracket. Even PJTKIs have closed
shop, he said. Suharman said that it has
been five years since he became a broker
for workers wanting to go to Saudi Arabia,
Abu Dhabi and Qatar.
His income in the past five yearswhich
he used up to build a home and send all of
his children to schoolhave dried up. However, he would never consider sending
workers off to Malaysia, Singapore, Hong
Kong or Korea, because he still hoped that
the moratorium for Saudi would be lifted.
He said that it took him years to become a
broker specializing in Middle Eastern countries, and he was not about to give it up.

NUR SAID KASDIONO,


FORMERTEKONG AND OWNER OF A PLACEMENT AGENCY:

RECRUITING AGENCIES WILL ALWAYS


NEED TEKONGS

UR Said Kasdiono said he felt


pride at having been a broker
at one time. The chief of the
West Nusa Tenggaras National Sports Committee (KONI NTB) said he remembers coming to Lombok 22 years ago
with his wife Astuti and knowing nothing
about the place.
They looked back at their struggles
through timeback to 1989. He would be
going across villages, looking for migrant
workers who wanted to work overseas.
He would leave early in the morning and
come home late at night, Astuti said. She
explained that their comfortable life today
was a result of Kasdionos hard work, who
had literally visited every hamlet in Lombok on a rented motorcycle, cajoling people to trust him into sending them off to
work overseas.
In the beginning, Kasdiono said he had
never wanted to leave Yogyakarta. However, when he was offered a job offer by a PJTKI inLombok, he decided to take it up, even
though it meant starting from zero. His job
was to find people willing to work in Brunei
Darussalam.
He rode on a different motorcycle every day, since it was rented on a daily basis.
Eventually, people began to trust him. As
he spoke to villagers, going door to door, he
learned that this business was not just a big
profit-earner but was linked to a variety of
social issues that needed to be dealt with
and fast. And he believed it all started with
getting people jobs.
His big break came in 1994, when the
Manpower Minister Abdul Latif at the time
announced a government-to-government
workers program between Malaysia and Indonesia. The company appointed to place
nearly 17,000 workers in the trade and in-

dustry sectors across Malaysia was PT Bijakand one of the few that the director of
this firm trusted with the job of finding capable migrant workers, was Kasdiono.
Kasdiono had moved up in life. He was
director of the Mataram offices of PT Bijak then. But he chose to leave the company and build his own five years later with
his wife. With much hard work, he and his
wife sold off whatever assets they had managed to collect and established their own
PJTKI, named Jasatama Widya Perkasa, in
1999. Today it is known as PPTKIS (private
recruitment agency) Jasatama.
From the time Jasatama was established,
the couple decided never to send female
migrant workers overseas to work in the informal sector.
Other PJTKIs cropped up and competed with each other, paying brokers big fees
to get them women to work overseas as domestic helpers. However, both Kasdiono
and his wife did not follow the trend.

Kasdiono explained that after undergoing years of work as a broker himself,


he was aware that sending off 100 female
workers as domestic helpers to other nations, was far more risky than placing thousands of male workers in the formal sector.
To place 100 people in the informal sector, is to face the problems of 100 individual employers of varying characters, spread
across different locations. With the formal
sector, we only deal with a few companies,
Kasdiono said.
The problems experienced by migrant
workers overseas, often stems from their
lack of proper training, particularlywhen
they are being sent off illegally.
Brokers recruited by his firm undergo
training, are made to wear uniforms and
carry clear ID-Cards to distinguish them
from other brokers.
We have very strict standards on how
we are to handle migrant workers. Our cellular phones are on 24 hours, because if
there is a problem with migrant workers,
they can immediately report back to our
firm, Kasdiono said.
The training patterns of his company includes getting newly-recruited brokers to
study with community elders or religious
leaders in Lombok, to prepare them for
the hardships of working overseas. He explained that many workers were taken in
by the positive aspects of working abroad,
but not the downsides.
A number of brokers today employed by
his firm are former migrant workers themselves.
His company currently sends an average
of 2000 workers per year. He and his wife
also own two travel agencies in Yogyakarta
and Mataram, and plots of land in Lombok.

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SPECIAL REPORT MIGRANT WORKERS

MOH. MOKHLIS,
CHIEF-NTB MANPOWER ANDTRANSMIGRATION OFFICE

OH. Mokhlis admits that


employment
brokers
and middlemen are indeed a big help. Mokhlis said that the tekong
or employment middlemen work closely
with and were partners of the regional and
city administrations, because their work
helped migrant workers to change their
lives.
The correct term for them is petugas
lapangan or (field operators). But people
call them tekong or brokers. Admittedly,
the role of these brokers is significant. Because of that, they really need to be organized and disciplined, Mokhlis said in a recent interview.
In reality, brokers in reality were officers
employed by the Migrant Worker Placement Agencies, or PJTKI. Because they
seem to be mushrooming at an alarming
rate, particularly due to a scarcity of jobs in
NTB, Mokhliss office has tightened its scrutiny of PJTKIs, and has asked them to discipline any of their brokers who act improperly.
This is why the Manpower Agency has
vowed to take strict action against those migrant placement firms who have defrauded their clients, through brokers. This year
alone, the Manpower Agency has blacklisted five PJTKIs.
There have been cases of faking the real
age of a migrant worker, or status. A woman who is married is stated as a widow or
a divorcee. A 17-year-old is passed off as a
28-year-old. We do not have the capacity to
handle these kinds of details, one by one.
According to records in his office, the
number of Migrant Workers Placement
Agencies have from year to year experienced a decline, with many of them clos-

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ing. In 2009, there were a total of 352 PJTKI firms across the province. This figure declined to 274 in 2010, and by last year, only
208 companies still operate across NTB.
He admitted there were virtually no
placement officers working for the government in NTB. I have repeatedly explained
that the role of mobile or travelling placement officers should be formed and maximized, to curb the influence of brokers who
are so heavily entrenched in society, he
said.
Many believe that brokers are guardian
angels of the local people. As a top official
in West Sumbawa, Mokhlis was certain that
all the homes there were built and maintained, not because of any mining project
in Sumbawa, but by people working overseas.
However, not all brokers are exemplary. There are thousands of them working
across the province and all of them have
their own methods of doing their job. Man-

aging these recruiting agencies and bad


brokers work under the Governors Decree
No. 2/2011 on the recruitment and protection of migrant workers. But this regulation
too is not able to detect or sanction those
brokers who flit from one company to another and thus evade the law. And his office
was none too surprised when recently, five
workers from NTB were reported to be human trafficking victims, and were detained
for their own safety at a shelter in Riau.
He explained that in that particular case,
a broker had attempted to send off 17 migrant workersfive of them female. The broker had handled all their administrative paperwork, drawn up fake recommendations
to send them overseas. Suspicions arose
when his office learned that the five female
workers of the 17 people being sent off were
headed for Oman, but none of them had received the mandatory pre-training course.
The five, according to current regulations,
were required to be trained by their PJTKI
for a minimum period of 25 days. The five
women ended up being detained in Riau.
When the West Nusa Tenggara Manpower Agency wrote to the PJTKI responsible
for sending these five ladies, the firm in
question claimed to have been non-active
for a while, long before the five ladies were
to be sent off.
He added that sending migrant workers
to neighboring countries such as Singapore
or Malaysia was not a problem. Problems
arose when workers are sent to the Middle
East, particularly female migrant workers.
He said that his office was working with
a string of PJTKIs to provide proper training where workers will be properly trained
for specific periods of time to work in the
formal sector overseas, primarily to Hong
Kong and Brunei.

PHOTO: GITA LAL FOR TEMPO

TEKONGS SHOULD BE OUR


PARTNERS