Monday, November 5, 2007

[wvns] 72 Indonesian workers in U.S. Iraq camps

72 Indonesian workers kept in U.S. Iraq camps
Abdul Khalik
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Scores of Indonesians working in U.S. military camps in Iraq have been
denied vacations and kept in the country despite the expiry of their
contracts, the Foreign Ministry has revealed.

According to data from the ministry, 72 Indonesian migrant workers
serving 17-month contracts as cooks, technicians and cleaners have
already been kept in the country for over 20 months.

Foreign Ministry director for protection of Indonesian citizens abroad
Teguh Wardoyo said Indonesian officials had been denied access to the
workers despite three month's worth of requests through U.S. Embassies
in Jakarta, Iraq, Jordan and Syria, as well as the U.S. State
Department in Washington.

On Friday, the Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S. Ambassador to
Indonesia Cameron R. Hume in an attempt to address the issue. Teguh
said that Stanley Harsya from the embassy's political section
represented the ambassador at the talks.

Teguh added that U.S. officials at first denied there were Indonesian
workers being kept past their contracts in Iraq.

"But after we showed our data, they said they wanted to help solve the
problem. In our conversation, we demanded to be given access to our
workers and that they are given their rights to vacations. U.S.
officials have given us their commitment that they will work on (the
matter)," Teguh said.

All 72 workers were sent to Iraq by South Jakarta company North Sea
Java Group on Jan. 2, 2006. The workers' contracts guaranteed them pay
of US$3,000 per month and two weeks of vacation per year.

However, Teguh said the workers "have not been allowed to leave the
camp since then".

"This is probably because the U.S. military authorities are dependent
on our workers and are afraid they won't come back," he added.

According to the Foreign Ministry, 86 workers were initially sent to
Iraq, but 14 have already been allowed to go home.

One of workers, Steven Latu, reported to the government in June that
his fellow workers were being denied their rights under their work

"We even contacted and asked that U.S. Iraq Policy Coordinator Mark
Wilson give these workers consular access and solve this problem, but
so far we have not received any positive results," Teguh said.

Teguh said U.S. officials had told him the country's response to his
complaints had been slowed by the ongoing war in Iraq.

Teguh said he did not have any solid data to indicate if the workers
have been working illegally in Iraq. However, he said North Java Sea
Group was not registered with the manpower ministry.

"That's why I've asked the police to investigate the matter," he said.



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