The Jakarta Post
The governments of Indonesia and Saudi Arabia are set to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the protection of Indonesian migrant workers on Wednesday morning Riyadh time, a landmark agreement that will guarantee the protection of Indonesian domestic workers in the Islamic kingdom.
Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar said the bilateral agreement was a milestone in the placement and protection of overseas workers in Saudi Arabia, since this was the very first time both governments had agreed to prioritize their protection.
'This will be historical in the manpower sector because this agreement will guarantee that all of our workers are protected. We want Saudi Arabia to pay special attention to our domestic workers from now on,' Muhaimin said on Tuesday from Riyadh.
The MoU will be signed by Muhaimin and Saudi Manpower Minister Adel M. Fakeih.
He said the agreement would guarantee that every migrant worker had communication access, days off, salaries paid through banking services and online access to a work contract.
'After signing the agreement, the Joint Working Committee and Joint Task Force between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia will continue to discuss every point [of the agreement] and the mechanism on how to implement them,' ministry spokesman Suhartono said.
Despite the milestone agreement, migrant worker support groups remain skeptical.
Wahyu Susilo, executive director of the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID), said the government had not been open to the public, such as NGOs, on what was included in the MoU. 'The most important thing is whether this bilateral agreement can replace the discriminative kafala system implemented in Saudi Arabia, otherwise it will not lead anywhere,' Wahyu said in Jakarta.
Kafala is a system used to control domestic workers.
The system allows employers to keep the passports of hired workers and requires workers to obtain permission from employers to leave Saudi Arabia or to be transferred to another employer.
Besides abuses, he said the
system had led to an annual increase in the number of Indonesian workers overstaying in the oil-rich country.
'How can they return to Indonesia when their employers forbid them from returning to their country of origin? This is a matter that should be taken seriously by the government,' he went on, adding that he hoped the government had recognized the importance of replacing the kafala system before drafting the MoU.
According to recent National Placement and Protection of Overseas Workers Agency (BNP2TKI) data, of the 4.3 million documented Indonesians working overseas, some 1.2 million are in Saudi Arabia, another 1.2 million are in Malaysia and the remainder are spread through many countries.
Previously, the government imposed a moratorium on the placement of informal Indonesian migrant workers in the Gulf kingdom effective from Aug. 1, 2011, until an Indonesian-Saudi memorandum of understanding on the protection of migrant workers was signed and a bilateral joint task force was established.
The move was taken after Saudi Arabia beheaded Ruyati binti Satubi, a 54-year-old migrant worker in June 2011, without first informing Indonesian officials.
Ruyati was executed for killing her employer's wife at a time when Indonesia was in the process of requesting clemency for her.
Based on Migrant Care data, there are currently 265 Indonesian migrant workers in several countries, including China and Malaysia, facing a possible death sentence.
Seventy of the total have been sentenced to death.
In Saudi Arabia alone, nine migrant workers are on death row awaiting execution while 33 cases are being processed.
Many Indonesian domestic workers have been put to death in several countries, such as Karno Marzuki, who was executed in Malaysia on Sept. 14, 1991, Yanti Iriyanti in Saudi Arabia on Feb. 12, 2008, Darman Agustiri
in Egypt in 2010, and the last one was Ruyati.
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