07/02/2011, 00.00
INDONESIA - SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi Arabia "to drive out" all Indonesian migrants

Mathias Hariyadi
The decision announced June 30. Jakarta replies that it has pre-empted a decision already taken to stop migration. But experts point out that Riyadh needs the Indonesian workforce and Jakarta has millions of unemployed. Instead safety and rights should be discussed.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Tension remains high between Riyadh and Jakarta in the aftermath of the beheading of an Indonesian woman in Saudi Arabia. The latter has decided to ban Indonesian workers (called Tenga Kerja Indonesia or TKI) from the country, but Indonesia had already decided to bring home the majority of its citizens migrated to Arabia, to ensure their safety.

Riyadh’s decision is effective from today. The Indonesian Minister for Human Resources Muhaimin Iskandar, however, commented on June 30 that "there is no problem, because their decision is in line with our moratorium." During a debate, he added that "they still need our TKI ... so we are not concerned about the decision to ban them."

President Susilo Bambang Yodhoyono had already promulgated the decision to recall some of the Indonesian workers who have migrated to Arabia, as of August 1. Jakarta aims to protest the beheading its citizen Rubati bin Satupi, carried out by Riyadh in violation of "international standards", without even informing Indonesia (in the picture: a moment of street protests in Indonesia).

The ban affects about 1.5 million Indonesian migrants who live in Saudi on a regular basis and send home at least 2 trillion rupees a year. Experts believe that the two countries should seek a solution together, rather than take unilateral decisions.

Jumhur Hidayat, head of the Indonesian national office for the placement and safety of TKI, said the Saudi decision is in line with Indonesia to stop this migration, but fears that it "will result in many illegal TKI without official documents."

Rusdi Basalamah, Secretary General of the Indonesian TKI agency, explains that there are thousands of Indonesian workers who have already applied for a visa and are ready to leave for Saudi.

Muhammad Yunus Yamani, head of the Agency, shows that this situation creates problems for both countries, because "Saudi Arabia has a strong need of our TKI and Indonesia relies heavily on TKI remittances from abroad ".

The National Commission for Human Rights of Women believes that any travel ban will have no effect unless alternative forms of employment are created for millions of unemployed domestic workers.

President Yudhoyono is concerned, however, to ensure the effective presence abroad of the newly created body for the safety of TKIs. He notes that there are at least 200 TKI, who are domestic workers in Saudi Arabia, China, Singapore and Malaysia, subject to charges involving the death penalty. "20% of them – he said yesterday - are involved in murder cases, while others in case of narcotic drugs or sexual abuse." "The Task Force for the TKI should provide them legal assistance and take all steps to minimize the possibility of death sentence." "We must ensure that any death sentence is transmuted to life imprisonment."

Minister Muhaimin Iskandar noted however, that the legal protection abroad is only one problem with TKI to discuss with Riyadh. It is also necessary to mention the minimum monthly wage, which Jakarta has asked be raised to at least 11 thousand reais (around 3 thousand dollars), however, this has met with objections.
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