Jakarta (AsiaNews / Agencies) - At least 5 thousand Indonesian workers will be repatriated this week from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan. This was decided by the government in Jakarta in response to the increasing instances of harassment and ill-treatment of fellow emigrants. Muhaimin Iskandar, Indonesian Minister of Labour, announced that his country intends to suspend the sending of people seeking employment to the three Middle Eastern states.
In Saudi Arabia alone there are an estimated 600 thousand Indonesian immigrants, 90% of whom are employed as domestic workers, labourers and drivers. Didi Wahyudi, head of the Jakarta consular service to Jeddah, explains that the number of returnees “is limited and represents only 1% of Indonesian workers in the country. But it has become an increasingly significant figure".
The system that regulates the immigration of workers from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia, and all Gulf countries except Bahrain, requires the employer to ensure a visa, usually of two years. This procedure puts the immigrants in a state of total dependence on those who employ them thus exposing them to abuse, exploitation and violence.
Didi Wahyudi said that the huge market for domestic workers usually attracts foreigners. An immigrant who arrives in Saudi Arabia to work in this sector receives a top salary of 800 rials per month, about 140 Euros, the minimum set by the Regulations. When they discover that foreign workers can earn up to 2 thousand rials they leave their employers, sometimes even before the expiry of two year visa, and chose to stay in the country as illegal immigrants.
The Saudi newspaper ArabNews says that in the month of September, about a thousand Indonesian immigrants, especially waiters, drivers and unskilled staff, went on trial for illegal residence in the country. Ryahd authorities say there are around 11 thousand illegal immigrants held in prisons.
The working conditions of foreign domestic staff in the Middle East concerns many Asian governments. The organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that Saudi Arabia alone employs around 1 and a half million women coming mainly from Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.
The government in Manila last week sent an official delegation to visit Jordan, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates for on the spot checks to verify the condition of so-called Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW). The Manila Representatives reported an "indescribable" situation where mostly women employed as maids are exploited and live in anguish.
To date there are no bilateral agreements between the Philippines and the Gulf countries for the management of migration flows of workers. On the one hand this gives rise to the phenomena of exploitation as reported by the delegation in Manila, on the other it generates a traffic of illegal immigrants find themselves in the hands of unscrupulous Philippine recruitment agencies, ready to offer non-existent jobs to workers who want to immigrate to countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.
After the visit, the delegation also wants to push the Manila government to suspend emigration of Filipinos to be employed as domestic servants in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.