By Ainur Rohmah
Malaysia is to deport 70,000 illegal Indonesian workers, a Jakarta-based newspaper has claimed.
The English-language Jakarta Globe quoted an anonymous official from the Indonesian Ministry of Labor as saying a meeting would be held to discuss removing workers without permission to be in the country.
The official was quoted as saying: "We are coordinating a meeting about it. Yes, approximately 70,000 illegal migrants [will be] deported from there."
The report contradicts an earlier statement from Indonesia’s ambassador to Malaysia Herman Prayitno who said 50,000 workers would be deported by the end of the year.
"There is not only 50,000 people but around 70,000 people," the Jakarta Globe’s source said.
Deputy ambassador Hermono, who like many Indonesians only uses one name, said companies employing migrant workers in Malaysia should bear responsibility for the prevalence of illegal Indonesian workers. “Why should it be the workers who are always blamed," he said. "We [have] asked the Malaysian government to be fair in applying policies related to the problem."
The Indonesian embassy said its records showed just 400Malaysian employers had been sanctioned for using illegal workers.
Hermono denied that Malaysia’s policy on illegal workers was linked to Indonesia’s battle against illegal fishing in its waters. Among the trawlers boarded by Indonesian forces have been ships from Malaysia.
"Migrant workers and illegal fishing have been decidedly different issues,” Hermono said. “Indonesian workers go to Malaysia because of a job offer while illegal fishing boats enter Indonesian waters to steal fish.”
Last month Utusan, a Malaysian news website, criticized President Joko Widodo as "arrogant" for Indonesia’s stance on foreign fishing.
It said recent tension between the neighbors was triggered by the arrest of 200 Malaysians for illegal fishing last month.
Indonesia has recently taken stern measures to prevent illegal fishing in its waters, sinking foreign fishing boats. Widodo believes this ‘shock therapy’ is the only way to protect Indonesia’s rich fishing grounds.
According to the International Organization for Migration, hundreds of thousands of Indonesians work without permission in plantations and other industries in Malaysia.
The Malaysian Interior Ministry declined to comment.