News / Asia

Indonesian Migrant Workers Leave Saudi Arabia

Indonesian workers shout slogans during a protest against the alleged abuse of Sumiati, an Indonesian worker in Saudi Arabia, outside the Parliament, Jakarta, Indonesia, (File).
Indonesian workers shout slogans during a protest against the alleged abuse of Sumiati, an Indonesian worker in Saudi Arabia, outside the Parliament, Jakarta, Indonesia, (File).
Kate Lamb

During the past month, Indonesia has issued special travel documents in lieu of passports to some 4,550 of its citizens in Saudi Arabia who claim they are trying to escape poor labor conditions or abusive employers.  But, with more than two million Indonesian migrant workers still in the country, the government is under increasing pressure formalize their protection with the Gulf nation.

Migrant workers return to Indonesia

Indonesia authorities flew home some 2,500 of the migrant workers on their new travel documents in late September.  The another 2,000 are being housed in a shelter near Jeddah and will return to Indonesia at the end of the month.

Authorities say most of the applicants for the documents are domestic workers who were forced to surrender their passport to their employers as part of their employment agreement. Such measures are common in Saudi Arabia, where domestic workers have few legal protections.

Anis Hidayah is the executive director of Migrant Care, a group in Jakarta that works to protect migrant workers. She wants a formal agreement between the two countries protecting the basic human rights of the migrant workers.

“In Saudi Arabia there are no national regulations about domestic workers, but Saudi is the biggest country that where there are so many domestic workers. So how to bridge the situation is we push for Indonesia and other sending countries to negotiate with Saudi Arabia to make bilateral regulations to protect domestic workers there. Without a  bilateral agreement I think the protection is very low for domestic workers,” Hidayah stated.

Hidayah says the agreement should focus on setting minimum wages, days off and allow migrant workers to retain their passports.

Saudi's ill treatment of domestic workers

The treatment of workers in Saudi Arabia has been a heated political topic in Indonesia since June, when Saudi authorities executed 54-year-old maid Ruyati binti Sapubi.

The Indonesian woman was beheaded for killing her employer, an action she said was motivated by self-defense, harsh working conditions and constant verbal abuse.

Saudi officials later apologized for failing to inform Indonesian authorities before the execution, Jakarta responded by barring migrants workers from going to the country. The ban since August 1st continues, but the more than two million Indonesians working in the country still have few legal protections.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Michael Tene says both sides have an interest in resolving the dispute and the government is working closely with the Saudi government to negotiate better conditions.                     

“We have imposed a moratorium of sending new workers and this moratorium will only be lifted once we are satisfied that the necessary instrument, necessary arrangements, to protect our workers in Saudi is in place and that is a process that is going on between our government and the Saudi government…There is no such time limits," Tene said. "Of course if those negotiations can be finalized in the early stage that would be better.”

Worldwide, Indonesian migrant workers send back more than $7 billion each year, money that supporters say is one of the country’s most effective forms of poverty alleviation.

With 2.5 million Indonesian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, critics say the government is more interested in the amount of remittances the workers send home to their families and contribute to the local economy.

Although Tene says the government is negotiating the release of the 43 Indonesian maids on death row, he also adds that many Indonesian workers do not have severe problems with their employers in the Saudi kingdom.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs