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    » 06/10/2013, 00.00

    INDONESIA - SAUDI ARABIA

    Jeddah: Indonesian immigrants storm their consulate for visa, one dead and three injured

    Mathias Hariyadi

    At least 12,000 workers were waiting to regularise their position. A combination of heat, red tape and inefficient service sparked unrest with the building attacked and set on fire. After the case of the woman beheaded in 2011, immigration to the Saudi kingdom is back in the news.

    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.

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    See also

    27/10/2009 SAUDI ARABIA
    Riding a bicycle from Rome to Makkah, bringing a message from the Pope
    Twenty-three cyclists make what one of them described as “probably the most important pilgrimage you can do; a pilgrimage of hope to build a bridge between the religions and cultures of Islam and Christianity.”

    15/04/2014 SAUDI ARABIA
    Saudi court shuts down liberal forum
    Forum founder Raif Badawi is already purging a seven-year sentence for violating Islamic teachings and criticising prominent religious figures. Meanwhile, King Abdullah continues to push for reforms to the country's legal system and greater transparency in sentencing.

    25/09/2009 SAUDI ARABIA
    First Saudi university to allow men and women together
    The new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology opens in a town not far from Jeddah. According to the university’s charter, Saudi Arabia’s religious police will not be allowed to operate on its premises but women will be allowed to drive. By next year, 817 students from 61 countries should be enrolled.

    26/11/2008 SAUDI ARABIA
    The Accolade, Saudi Arabia’s first all-girl rock band
    To evade their country’s rigid Islamic rules a group of young women jam in secret locations putting their music on the web. For the group’s leader, playing “is a challenge,” but their dream is to play before a live audience in Dubai to show “what we're capable of”.

    02/12/2009 SAUDI ARABIA
    Fear of epidemic looms over Jeddah as flood-related bodies are still unburied
    Many bodies are rotting under debris, following last week’s big flood. More than 100 people died, some drowned in their cars. Government is blamed for the lack of proper drainage.



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