ADVANCING THE SKILLS OF PARALEGALS IN INDONESIA
26 November 2017
Justice Without Borders (JWB) visited West Java with its partners, the Legal Clinic of the Faculty of Law Universitas Indonesia and Indonesian Migrant Workers Union (SBMI) for a second joint training workshop on “Case Management and Identification of Compensation Claims for Indonesian Migrant Workers.” Funded by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the workshop was held in Indramayu, West Java, Indonesia.
This project is part of JWB’s ongoing work to build the needed infrastructure for cross-border civil litigation along the migration routes connecting Indonesia, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Front-line organizations across Indonesia’s major sending regions have requested help building the skills of community paralegals in identifying claims and improving case management.
Taking place in Indramayu, West Java, the workshop took another step in developing the pool of local community workers trained in handling migrant workers’ cases. Indramayu is one of the key sending regions, which consistently sends one of the largest numbers of migrant workers overseas to destinations, including the Middle East, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
Training frontline caseworkers on effective collaboration and gender sensitivity
The training was attended by nineteen dedicated paralegals, all village activists with experience assisting in migrant workers’ cases.
A representative from SBMI, Robidin, began the session by presenting SBMI’s material on the role of paralegals. He spoke about the importance of paralegals’ roles as frontline workers in facilitating access to justice for migrant workers. He emphasised the need to work with relevant government agencies in order to obtain crucial evidence needed to pursue cases.
Robidin also highlighted the importance of working with other organisations, such as JWB in helping clients with legal needs that go beyond local organizations’ own capacities.
“Access to evidence is important to improve case outcomes. As paralegals, we need to cooperate with other agencies, even those abroad,” he explained.
Fellows from the Legal Clinic of Universitas Indonesia provided sensitivity training on dealing with cases of gender-based violence. Most of the workers JWB support are women who can face threats of both physical and sexual violence.
Learning to identify claims and collect evidence before it’s too late
JWB officers used hands-on exercises to train the participants to identify claims workers might have abroad and to collect the evidence needed to substantiate those claims. Through a role-playing exercise, JWB taught participants to identify the different groups of actors involved in a case. Standing apart from each other, the participants were connected by a rope to symbolise the chain of events in the case. The participants then worked in groups to discuss the types of problems identified, potential claims, and evidence needed, and presented their findings to the class.
How to access justice, even from abroad
Participants also discussed the possible ways to pursue claims against perpetrators in Indonesia and abroad. While most of the participants were familiar with the paths to pursuing claims in Indonesian courts, they were learning for the first time the possibilities for pursuing claims in courts abroad, especially after migrant workers have returned home.
Sri Aryani, the Head of Office for JWB Indonesia, introduced the possible claims for the problems that migrant workers may encounter in Hong Kong and Singapore, such as overcharging, unpaid wages and abuse, and discussed the process of collecting documents as evidence. This topic elicited detailed questions from the paralegals, and their enthusiastic participation in discussing the cases they already handle extended the training session past its original end time.
After the workshop, the homework begins
Following the training, the paralegals will be locating migrant workers in their neighbourhoods who may still have potential claims. Participants will use a case intake form that JWB provided so that they can effectively document information for the cases they find.
Justice Without Borders will then follow up on these cases with the workshop participants in the next three months. JWB officers will discuss and review the cases with the paralegals, providing essential support to develop and pursue appropriate claims, with the help of a pro bono lawyer if necessary. Finally, JWB is planning to hold a meeting on the new Migrant Workers Protection Law, which would be an opportunity to develop further strategies for pursuing claims, even after returning home.