Indonesia has issued a moratorium on sending domestic helpers to Saudi Arabia until the two countries can do more to protect Indonesian maids and other migrant workers there.
The suspension will take effect on August 1 and will remain until the Saudi government agrees to sign a memorandum of understanding to protect Indonesian workers' rights, said Labour Minister Muhaimin Iskandar.
The freeze comes after an Indonesian maid was beheaded before the Indonesian government was informed, stirring up public furor in Indonesia. Ruyati binti Satubi was executed for killing her employer’s wife after being denied permission to leave the kingdom and return to her family in Indonesia. Saudi authorities did not inform Indonesia until after the execution was carried out.
Report & Analysis: Indonesia to stop sending maids to Saudi [AFP, 23 June 2011]
There are about 4.3 million documented Indonesians working overseas, 1.2 million of which are in Saudi Arabia. About 70 percent of these are domestic workers.
Indonesia’s move is indicative of a growing awareness in labour-exporting countries about the risks their citizens face while working oversease in richer countries. While it depends heavily on the more than $7 billion its migrant workers send home each year, Indonesia is indicating a growing willingness to take the hit in remittances if it believes its workers are being abused.
Anger has been brewing in recent years over allegations of mistreatment by employers, particularly towards domestic helpers. There were similar calls to end the flow of labour late last year after reports of alleged maid abuse and even murder in Saudi Arabia.
Report & Analysis: Indonesia stops sending maids to Saudi Arabia [WSJ, 22 June 2011]
Migrant Care Executive Director Anisa Hidaya said, "The moratorium represents momentum for improvement and at the same time emphasizes a firm stance on the part of Indonesia towards Saudi Arabia."
However, some have expressed concerns about the effects of the ban. According to Human Rights Watch Senior Women's Rights researcher Nisha Varia, the moratorium won't stop Indonesians from illegally entering these countries and "it would perhaps expose them to even more risks.”
Report & Analysis: After beheading, Indonesia may ban sending workers to Saudi Arabia[CNN, 22 June 2011]
Indonesian labour ministry spokeswoman Dita Indah Sari said the department would implement extra measures to ensure no-one travels to Saudi Arabia for domestic employment during the moratorium period, with more officials posted at borders and airports.
Report & Analysis: Saudi execution prompts Indonesia maid travel ban [BBC, 22 June 2011]