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Indonesia: New Task Force to Monitor Foreigners

(Jan. 13, 2017) On January 6, 2017, Indonesia’s government announced a plan to revise its current method of oversight of foreigners in the country. Due to concern that foreigners may enter Indonesia and pursue goals other than those for which they were granted entry, the administration will establish a task force that would track the movements of foreigners within the country. According to the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister, Wiranto, the monitoring “will ensure foreigners who enter and move across Indonesia do not have a hidden agenda, such as working illegally, or even committing terror acts and being involved in the illegal drug trade.” (Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Indonesia to Set up a Task Force to Monitor the Movement of Foreigners, JAKARTA POST (Jan. 7, 2017).)

Wiranto commented that the new task force will supplement oversight functions in the current system, which is designed to monitor foreigners when they first enter Indonesia but has less coverage of what they do once inside the country. Under the new arrangement, he said, local administrations will have augmented abilities to follow the actions of foreigners in their areas. (Id.)

The new task force’s responsibilities will be similar to those of the former foreigner oversight team, a unit under the National Police established under the Suharto regime (1965-1998) but abolished in 2011 by the adoption of a new Immigration Law. (Id.; Law of the Republic of Indonesia Number 6 of 2011 Concerning Immigration (May 5, 2011), Directorate General of Immigration website; Undang-Undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 6 Tahun 2011 Tentang Keimigrasian (May 5, 2011), House of Representatives of Indonesia website; Alice Donald, Rise and Fall of Strongman Suharto, BBC NEWS (Sept. 28, 2000).) According to Commander General Syafruddin, the Deputy Chief of the National Police, the police will now have a role in monitoring the activities of foreigners, under the coordination of national security officials. (Sapiie, supra.)

Background 

In 2016, 7,787 individuals, including 1,837 Chinese people, were punished for violating Indonesian immigration rules. (Id.) A rumor spread that millions of Chinese had been working in the country illegally, something that Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo denied repeatedly. As of November of last year, over 74,000 foreigners were working legally in Indonesia, and only a little more than 21,000 were from China. (Id.)

There have been some well-publicized cases of foreigners, particularly those from China, engaging in illegal work. A raid on New Year’s eve in West Jakarta Province resulted in the arrest of 76 Chinese citizens working as prostitutes in nightclubs. Passports and cash equivalent to US$1,200 were seized, together with other evidence of the crime. Local police were aided by the military police in the operation. (Winda A. Charmila & Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Indonesian Immigration Office Continues to Hunt Illegal Foreign Workers, JAKARTA POST (Jan. 9, 2017).)

Prostitution is not the only form of illegal work that has attracted foreigners to Indonesia. Earlier this month, 12 Chinese citizens’ passports were confiscated by immigration officials in West Nusa Tenggara Province after they worked in a dredging operation from a Chinese ship without proper permits. Although the workers had special immigration facilitation letters known as Dasuskim that allowed them to work on the boat, they were reportedly also installing a pipeline in the ground, which was considered a misuse of their permits. (Panca Nugraha, Passports of 12 Chinese Citizens Confiscated over Alleged Stay Permit Misuse, JAKARTA POST (Jan. 4, 2017).)

Administration Comments  

Minister of Manpower M. Hanif Dhakiri stated that the number of foreigners working without proper legal status is small, compared to the number who are working in Indonesia legally, but that the Ministry would intensify oversight and continue the present plan under which businesses that hire foreign workers are inspected periodically and would also respond to specific reports that workers without legal status are employed. (Sapiie, supra.) Dhakiri added, “[w]e will continuously improve our monitoring, but the public should also stop fussing over the matter. It’s true that there are problems [related to illegal foreign workers], but don’t create a hyperbolic issue over that.” (Id.)

The Minister of Law and Human Rights, Yasonna Laoly, whose ministry includes the Directorate General of Immigration, noted that the number of foreign workers in the country results from the fact that foreign investors in industry want their own citizens, who have particular qualifications, to work for them. He added that “[g]radually there will be location training [by foreigners] so that [Indonesian workers] can take over the factory because technology transfer is required.” (Id.) He also said that a regulation on this transfer of knowledge that had been issued by the Ministry of Industry will be strengthened. (Id.)

Laoly also commented on the question of whether the expansion of the visa-free entry policy, designed to increase the tourism business, had added to the number of illegal foreign workers, arguing that it had not done so. His office will, however, review the visa policy. (Id.) Wiranto agreed with this approach, stating that an evaluation of the list of 174 countries now under the visa-free policy would be helpful in making sure that foreigners were not taking advantage of it to work illegally in Indonesia. (Id.; Constance Johnson, Indonesia: Plan to Extend Visa-Free Entry to More Foreigners, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Dec. 22, 2015).)

Comments from Legislators

Dede Yusuf Macan Effendi, a member of the legislature serving on the House of Representatives Commission IX, which oversees health and manpower issues, noted that “[b]ecause the Law and Human Rights Ministry and its immigration directorate general only focus on the country’s border gates, illegal workers are now working for mining and infrastructure projects in the forests.” (Charmila & Ramadhani, supra.) Effendi added that the immigration authorities should work with “the National Police, State Intelligence Agency, National Counterterrorism Agency, Manpower Ministry and local authorities as well.” (Id.)

The Deputy Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Commission IX, Saleh Partaonan Dauley, stated that the government should make sure that the proposed task force does not overlap in its duties with the existing authorities. He also noted that there would be budgetary considerations and that the matter should have been discussed with legislators. (Id.)