World

18,000 workers to be repatriated
from Saudi Arabia

Indonesia will repatriate about 18,000 more workers who have overstayed their visa in Saudi Arabia, says Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Wardhana.

Of the 18,000 workers, only 4,143 have obtained exit permits from the Saudi government. The Indonesian government will accommodate the workers on flights carrying haj pilgrims from the country. There are 7,100 seats available for workers who have overstayed their visas and plan to return to Indonesia.

"We will facilitate those who are willing to return to Indonesia at their own expense. For instance, [the workers] only have to pay US$188 for a plane ticket. We will provide a hotel room free of charge to them where they can wait until their departure," Wardhana said in Jakarta on Monday, as quoted by the Antara news agency.

Of the 7,100 seats available, only 716 have so far been filled. The Foreign Affairs Ministry's chief for legal aid and protection of Indonesians abroad, Tatang Budhie Razak, said this could be because the workers preferred to return to Indonesia after the haj season this month.

"The workers consider the haj season as a chance to earn money before returning to Indonesia," he said.

Last May, the Saudi government announced it would give migrant workers who had overstayed their visa a chance to register themselves with their respective country's representative office in the Kingdom and get a passport-like document.

Those who obtained the document would be given a choice between returning home and continuing to work in Saudi Arabia. The deadline for completing the registration is Nov. 3, after which workers staying illegally in the country will be detained and their employers will be fined.

There are about 300,000 Indonesian workers who have overstayed their visa in Saudi Arabia. Until now, 90,481 of them have obtained the passport-like document, with only 20 percent (or about 18,000 people) expressing a wish to return to Indonesia.

As for the remaining workers who have decided to continue working in Saudi Arabia, the challenge is to find employment as soon as possible, as the document is valid for only one year, Antara reported.

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