An all-too-common story, that often ends in tragedy, has ended with a positive result thanks to the quick thinking of I Made Dalem And Okyartha (Oky). Though the situation is heartbreaking for Okyartha, his quick thinking enabled him to get the support he needed to return to his family.
Across South and South East Asia, there are thousands of migrant worker employment programs, many of which are vulgar scams that not only drain families of their life savings but abandon innocent men and women in countries far from their homes without any resources, or support or legal standing. Recruiters visit a rural village and promise young people to work in foreign countries, this may be in the United Arab Emirates, Australia, Malaysia, Qatar, or Singapore.
Potential workers are then encouraged to pay thousands of dollars in enrolment fees, training fees, transportation costs, and administration fees, all of which are part of the scam. These agencies then take that money in return for facilitating the individual in getting their new job.
Oftentimes these workers take loans from family members and at face value it makes sense, they are going aboard for a job they are told will pay them upwards of four to five times what they are earning currently.
Only as soon as these workers land at the new destination, their dreams are destroyed. There is no one waiting for them in the arrivals hall, they don’t have a job, nor any right to work in the country they have arrived in. In many cases they have no legal right to be there at all, some scams are so elaborate that even the passport control officers are in on the scam.
These young, hope-filled workers then have no money to get home, no one to call, and are left to fend for themselves. If there is a job waiting for them in construction, security, cleaning or hospitality, conditions are often abhorrent, they are paid next to nothing and are then caught in a secondary debt bondage scam. In the construction sector health and safety is non-exisitant and hundreds of migrant workers die or are injured every year.
This is what happened to Made Dalem And Okyartha, fortunately, he could see what had happened and instincitivly knew that there was no use in trying to save face or make something work. He called the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore who were able to assist in his return to Bali.
For many migrant workers caught up in scams like this, it is the first time they are leaving their province, let alone their country. Most do not know their rights, or how and where to find support from their embassy.
Oky was approached by an employment agency and promised a job as a chef in the UK. Talking to Nusa Bali, he said ‘I participated in an overseas job training seminar in November 2021 at a hotel in the Seminyak area, Badung, with an investment cost of IDR 22.5 million (USD 1500). The promise is that I would depart for the United Kingdom in February 2022’.
On 16th March 2022, Oky and four friends boarded a flight to Singapore in what they thought was the beginning of their journey to the UK. Arriving in Singapore it became apparent that they had been scammed and abandoned. Oky spent nine days in Singapore penniless and without accommodation. He was fined for sleeping rough in the MRT train station. He attended prayers at several mosques so that he could get food at the breaking of the Ramadan fast.
He and his friends were able to get in contact with the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore who ere able to support the five of them in returning to Bali. They arrived home on 15th May 2022. Though Oky will never see his 22 million IDR again he hopes that as tourism begins to pick up again in Bali that he will be able to find work as a chef once again.
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