A presidentially-appointed task force on migrant workers on Tuesday called for a blanket moratorium on the sending of Indonesian household workers to the Middle East until their protection is legally guaranteed.
Humphrey Djemat, the spokesman for the task force, said in a press statement that the recommendation came following a recent trip to four Middle Eastern nations that are home to many Indonesian migrant workers — Egypt, Jordan, Oman and Bahrain. Indonesia currently has a prohibition on the sending of Indonesian migrants as domestic workers to Jordan and Saudi Arabia after many reported cases of violence and maltreatment of Indonesian workers there.
“On one hand, we are halting the legal entry of Indonesian workers there, but if the country or the agents still need Indonesian workers, then they will simply come in as illegal workers,” Humphrey said.
He estimated that there are some 30,000 Indonesian workers in Jordan despite of the moratorium. The Indonesian Embassy in Amman will conduct a census of Indonesian workers there next month, he said.
He said that in Oman there are about 29,000 Indonesians working in households. He added that the embassy in Muscat has already repatriated 162 workers, leaving 37 others still seeking shelter at the embassy because of various work-related problems they faced.
Humphrey said most of the workers from Indonesia entered Oman through the United Arab Emirates, and even though the embassy in Muscat had contacted the United Arab Emirates over the matter, it had only led to human trafficking at the border.
“So far there have been no Indonesian citizens who are threatened with the death penalty in Oman, even though like with other countries in the Middle East, there is no legal protection of domestic workers in Oman,” Humphrey said.
In Bahrain, the number of Indonesians has risen from 9,000 last year to 12,395 at present.
“This increase is, among other [reasons], because of the moratorium on the sending of Indonesian migrants to Saudi Arabia,” Humphrey said.
He said that another impact of the moratorium was that many Indonesian migrant workers were attempting to enter Saudi Arabia through Bahrain.
“The Bahraini immigration cannot prevent this as long as the sponsors of those Indonesian workers have met the requirements prevailing in Bahrain,” he said.
In Bahrain itself, some 3,000 Indonesians are officially employed in the country.
“At the present, there are 27 Indonesian migrant workers with problems who are now sheltering at the embassy in Manama,” he said. “The sources of most of their problems are unpaid wages or them being mentally unprepared to work for others and therefore fleeing their employee’s house.”
In Egypt, Humphrey said there was information that some 1,200 Indonesians worked there, although the country is not a major destination for foreign informal migrant workers.
“There are currently 20 Indonesian migrant workers at a shelter at the Cairo embassy and every year, the embassy returns not less than 80 workers home. But the number of those coming to the shelter continues to rise compared to those repatriated,” Humphrey said.
The government placed a moratorium on sending migrant workers to Saudi Arabia last year after an Indonesian maid was beheaded after being convicted of killing her Saudi employer.
Indonesia in December lifted a 2009 ban on sending maids to Malaysia, imposed after a rash of abuse cases were reported in the country, where around 300,000 Indonesian maids had worked.