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Jakarta Post

Indonesia to review new deal with Saudi Arabia

  • Dian Septiari, Marchio Irfan Gorbiano and Ati Nurbaiti

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, November 1, 2018   /   09:53 am
Indonesia to review new deal with Saudi Arabia Struggle for life: Migrant workers from South Sulawesi and West Sulawesi, together with their children, disembark from a vessel at Tunon Taka Port in Nunukan regency, North Kalimantan, on March 6. (Antara/M. Rusman)

Manpower Minister Hanif Dhakiri has said he will review a scheme to send migrant workers to Saudi Arabia after the kingdom executed an Indonesian domestic worker without notifying her family or consular staff.

Tuti Tursilawati was executed Monday seven years after she was sentenced to death for killing her employer’s father in an act she had claimed was self-defense.

The execution casts a shadow over a recent agreement to send a limited number of migrant workers to Saudi Arabia under the One Channel System, despite a 2015 moratorium banning new domestic workers from entering 21 Middle Eastern countries.

“With this incident, we will review [the system] and coordinate with relevant stakeholders, including the Foreign Ministry and the BNP2TKI [Agency for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers],” Hanif told reporters at the Presidential Palace on Wednesday.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo criticized the decision, saying the government had lodged an official protest and demanded better protection of Indonesian workers in the country.

Read also: Jokowi regrets being blindsided, again, in Saudi execution of Indonesian

Indonesia introduced the ban following the execution of two other Indonesian maids by Riyadh.

The Saudi side has not come out with an official response.

Even though Hanif and his Saudi counterpart Ahmed Sulaiman Al Rajhi had agreed on a technical arrangement for the project last month, ministry officials had said it would be a while before Indonesian migrant workers would be allowed again to work in Saudi Arabia.

Maruli A. Hasoloan, the ministry’s Labor Placement and Employment Development Director General, said the ministry was still papering over any unresolved technical issues. “I can’t say when we can send the workers, but hopefully soon,” he said recently.

The project will be evaluated after a six-month trial, and officially kicks off when a qualified Indonesian migrant worker is sent to one of a limited number of destinations.

Maruli said the new system aimed to address the fundamental reason why workers would often be involved in crime, such as dissatisfaction over unpaid wages or harassment. “I’m not saying [the project] will solve all the problems, but it can help minimize them,” he said.

Under the limited trial, only certified worker classes are allowed: babysitters, family cooks and caretakers for the elderly, as well as family drivers, childcare workers and housekeepers. Certification is to be obtained through government-approved migrant worker training centers (BKLN).

The ministry’s director for migrant worker placement and protection, R. Soes Hindharno, said that an online system was currently being set up to filter applications from around 300 BKLN and 446 worker placement agencies that wanted to participate in the project. Agencies with a poor track record would be automatically disqualified, Soes said.

Domestic workers like Tuti are among the most vulnerable groups that Indonesia sends abroad, owing to decades of unregulated recruitment and placement practices that neglect the rights and wellbeing of workers.

Women migrant workers have it even harder, with Azriana, the chairwoman of the National Commission on Violence against Women, saying that avoiding rape was “not about skill [...] but protection”.

Tuti was reportedly harassed by her employer’s father but did not report it, and chose instead to beat him to death. She was charged with premeditated murder. (tjs)