Indonesian advocacy group condemns migrant workers being sold online in Singapore

Last Updated on Oct. 12, 2018, 12:15 p.m.

Migrant workers’ rights activists in Indonesia are outraged about the country’s domestic workers being auctioned off in a Singaporean online marketplace as if they were household goods.

Last Friday morning, a netizen in Singapore alerted the All Singapore Stuff Facebook page about a user on Carousell — a Singapore-based online marketplace — who had been putting up listings of various domestic helpers from Indonesia, complete with their faces exposed and their work experience degradingly simplified to “fresh” or “ex abroad” (having worked abroad before). Since the account was set up on Aug 15, the user even had some of the profiles indicated as “sold”.

Migrant CARE, an advocacy group for Indonesian migrant workers, called for stern action against the seller.

“Migrant CARE strongly condemn this kind of exploitation which is like enslaving people. We demand that there be legal action against the culprit,” Migrant CARE Executive Director Wahyu Susilo told reporters yesterday, as quoted by Detik.

Wahyu added that the demeaning listings are not the first of their kind to be advertised in Indonesia’s closest neighboring countries.

“Selling the services of Indonesian migrant workers like they are commodities is actually nothing new, even if there have been protests against them. In Malaysia, there were massive ads on the streets of Kuala Lumpur which promoted ‘Indonesian maids for sale’. In Singapore there were also migrant workers being offered by displaying them in shops. These are clearly not fair and degrading to the dignity of Indonesian migrant workers,” he said.

Though it wasn’t specifically mentioned by Migrant CARE, one of the most demeaning and outrageous ads involving Indonesian migrant workers in recent years was published by a robotics firm in Malaysia. The ad, promoting a robot vacuum cleaner, contained the copy “Fire your Indonesian maid” and replace them with the company’s product.

Migrant CARE is urging the government to spread awareness about ethical hiring practices to prospective migrant workers from Indonesia so they don’t end up in ads like the ones in Carousell.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry says it is sending a diplomatic note to its counterpart in Singapore regarding the case.

The migrant workers listings page can no longer be found on Carousell as the online marketplace platform has since taken down the account. A Carousell spokesman told The Straits Times that the listings violated the platform’s community guidelines — sharing of individual’s personal biodata is strictly prohibited.

Currently, Carousell is assisting the Singapore Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in its investigations into the case. Acknowledging their awareness of the listings, MOM issued a strongly worded statement against employment agencies (EAs) that engage in such practices in a Facebook post.

When contacted by Coconuts Singapore, a MOM spokesperson was not able to provide any updates to the case as the investigation is still ongoing.

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