Herb Feith Memorial Lecture 2018, ‘Protecting Indonesia’s migrant workers’

The 2018 Herb Feith Memorial Lecture is presented in collaboration with

Indonesia Council’s Keynote Lecture

Biennial ASAA conference, University of Sydney

3 July 2018

Anis Hidayah

‘Protecting Indonesia’s Migrant Workers’


In mid-March 2018, another Indonesian migrant worker, Zaini Misrin, was executed in Saudi Arabia. Zaini’s case exposes the reality that Indonesians working abroad remain vulnerable because the framework of protections is still weak. For most Indonesians migrant workers, this work is a choice of last resort. For most women who do so, their migration abroad is a consequence of the feminization of poverty.

The vulnerability of Indonesian migrant workers is the result of a non-protective migration policy. The adoption of Law No. 18/2017 on the Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers late last year, after a process that began almost seven years earlier, marks an important milestone. It substantially reduces the dominant role of private agents that causes migrant workers to experience debt bondage due to the high costs of migration. This law is expected to improve future protection. Civil society groups, including Migrant CARE have played a significant role in encouraging the protection for migrant workers for several decades. This paper will describe the work of Desbumi (Desa Peduli Buruh Migran) a Migrant CARE program working in cooperation with local government, to facilitate better and easier access to protection for migrant workers.


Anis Hidayah is Head of Research Division Migrant CARE. She is alumnus of the Law Faculty of Jember University and holds a Masters Degree in Law from Gadjah Mada University. She began to advocate for migrant workers in the 1990s upon joining Solidaritas Perempuan Jawa Timur. Together with several activists she helped establish Migrant CARE in 2004. Anis has received several awards, including Human Rights Watch for Extraordinary Activism 2011 and Yap Thian Hien Award 2014.