Jakarta (AsiaNews) - A woman is dead, three people are slightly injured and dozens more fainted during yesterday's attack against the Indonesian consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, closed by local authorities for security reasons.
In recent days, thousands of Indonesian migrant workers had camped inside the building, waiting to regularise their position and get the necessary permits to avoid expulsion. However, the slow pace of operations and excessive red tape proved too much for many immigrants who went on a rampage, throwing stones and other objects and setting partitions and walls on fire.
For the first time in its history, an Indonesian diplomatic mission has been the object of violence, something that has caused dismay and concern at home, but did not surprise those who know the inner workings and shortcomings of Indonesia's bureaucracy, notorious for its corruption, bribes and favours, for passport applications or other documents, both at home and abroad.
The situation has worsened in Indonesian diplomatic offices in Saudi Arabia, because of Saudi crackdown on migrant workers. Since 1 April, at least 180,000 illegal workers (380,000 since the start of the year) have left the country, taking advantage of a special "immunity" that allows them to leave the country without the payment of a penalty.
When violence broke out, some 12,000 people were waiting at the consulate to fill out the paperwork to get a residence permit after the Saudi government set a 3 July deadline for applicants.
The looming deadline prompted workers to storm the building, which could not contain such a large crowd. Heat, lack of water and ventilation did the rest, causing some people to faint and others to protest until some revolted.
The question of residence permits is part of a bigger picture, which touches the lives of Indonesian citizens across the Middle East, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan, where they are appreciated for the quality of their work and their "low-cost" but where they are also victims of abuse and violence.
The issue of migrant workers has repeatedly caused tensions between Jakarta and Riyadh as well as Indonesia and Malaysia. The beheading of Ruyati Binti Satubi Saruna in 2011 and more recent cases of abuse, sexual violence and violations of Saudi Arabia's immigration law have exacerbated the problem.