Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Migrant Workers under attack in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia

Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Tue, 11/23/2010 12:21 PM | 
Mbak Sumiati's Injuries
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono should go to Saudi Arabia to directly handle the latest abuse cases involving two Indonesian migrant workers there to avoid incidents like these occurring again, the Regional Representatives Council said.

Council deputy chairman Laode Ida said in his address to the its plenary session Monday that overhauling the labor export procedure would not be enough to end abuse against Indonesian maids in Saudi Arabia.

He said the President needed to talk with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to have the kingdom promise that the brutal torture against Indonesian maids there would not happen again. Government officials, council members and civil society groups have flown to Saudi to settle the case, but Laode said he was pessimistic about lobbying against the Saudi government to push for a thorough investigation into the two cases and taking concrete action against the perpetrators.

“Yudhoyono is the first and main official held responsible for the two cases and therefore he has to show strong commitment to protect all Indonesian citizens abroad,” he said, adding the two cases were a strong slap in the face for the government and a humiliation to the nation.

The torture of Sumiati, a migrant worker from Dompu, West Nusa Tenggara, who was in intensive care in Jeddah after being tortured by her employer and the murder of Kikim Komalasari, another domestic worker from Cianjur whose body was discovered at a rubbish spot in Abha, Saudi Arabia, recently, has sparked strong reaction from numerous sides at home, including the council and the House of Representatives.

Istibsyaroh, chairwoman of Committee III on labor, health and social affairs at the council, said that based on her committee’s report, the plenary session agreed to ask the government to temporarily suspend the labor supply to countries that had no political commitment to protecting Indonesian migrant workers while overhauling the labor export procedure.

The government’s decision to continue supplying workers to Saudi Arabia goes against the 2004 Labor Export and Protection Law, which allows labor export only to countries that have labor agreements with Indonesia, she said.

“The government must take a moratorium until the two countries make sure that both will comply with the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and sign a labor agreement with Indonesia,” she said.

Indonesia suspended labor supply to Malaysia from July 2009 following similar cases of Indonesian migrant workers in the informal sector and the neighboring country’s reluctance to sign the bilateral labor agreement, which sets monthly minimum wages and a weekly one day off for Indonesian workers.

Saudi Arabia is home to more than 1 million migrant workers from Indonesia, while Malaysia is home to more than 2 million workers and mostly have been employed as domestic workers with a monthly wage of around Rp 1.5 million (US$160).

Domestic workers in the two countries have been prone to abuse in their work place because they are not protected under their labor law as have been treated as part of their employers’ families. The two countries have been closely monitored by the Asian Human Rights Watch for the rampant abuse of foreign workers.

Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar said in a coordination meeting with officials from the Foreign, Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection and Home ministries, as well as the National Agency for Labor Export and Protection that the government would revise the labor contract to help provide protection for Indonesian migrant workers. “The government will review the labor contract between workers and their employers to prevent any labor abuse in the future,” he said.

( http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2010/11/23/dpd-calls-tougher-diplomacy-over-abuse.html )


 She arrived in Saudi Arabia a high-spirited 23-year-old, eager to start work as a maid to help support her family back home. Four months later, Sumiati was Indonesia's poster child for migrant abuse, alone and staring vacantly from a hospital bed, her face sliced and battered.
Mbak Sumiati in hospital
But while public anger has forced President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's government to acknowledge the problem for the first time, few expect any firm action to be taken.
Gruesome images snapped of Sumiati, now recovering in the Saudi city of Medina, have been splashed on the front pages of local newspapers and led television newscasts for more than a week.

Her employer — who has been taken in for questioning by police — is accused of cutting off part of her lips with scissors, scalding her back with an iron, fracturing her middle finger, and beating her legs until she could hardly walk.

"It's hardly the first such case," said Wahyu Susilo, a policy analyst at Indonesia's advocacy group, Migrant Care. "Again and again we hear about slavery-like conditions, torture, sexual abuse and even death, but our government has chosen to ignore it. Why? Because migrant workers generate $7.5 billion of dollars in foreign exchange every year."

Workers from Asian countries dominate service industries in the Middle East and there have been many reports of abuse — including allegations in recent days that an employer in Kuwait drove 14 metal pins into the body of a Sri Lankan maid.

"The wanton brutality alleged in these cases is shocking," said Nisha Varia, senior women's rights researcher at the New York-based Human Rights Watch, which called on authorities to investigate claims promptly and bring those responsible to justice.

She and others called cases like that of Sumiati the "tip of the iceberg. "But countries that export labor have a responsibility as well, Nisha said. Though Indonesia sends more than 6.5 million workers abroad every year, it has drawn much criticism for failing — despite repeated promises — to ratify a 1990 U.N. convention on the protection of migrant workers. It also has not signed a bilateral agreement with Saudi Arabia that would give workers a legal basis to challenge employers.

But Oon Kurniaputra, an adviser to Indonesia's Minister of Manpower and Transmigration, argued Tuesday that the problem is not the fault of governments.
It is with profit-hungry recruitment agencies that lure young men and women overseas without ensuring their safety when they get there, he said.

Sumiati's case prompted President Yudhoyono to call a Cabinet meeting late last week to discuss ways in which the government could — and would — do more. It turned out to be a public relations disaster.
It emerged during the talks that another Indonesian maid, 36-year-old Kikim Komalasari, had allegedly been tortured to death by her Saudi employer, her body found in a trash bin on Nov. 11 in the town of Abha.
"It's shocking to hear this ... it's beyond inhumane," said Yudhoyono, as the government sent a team of diplomats to the scene to investigate. "I want the law to be upheld and to see an all-out diplomatic effort."
Some lawmakers suggested a moratorium on sending domestic workers to Saudi Arabia, something that is considered unlikely given the close economic and political ties between the predominantly Muslim countries.
It also comes at a sensitive time, with hundreds of thousands of Indonesians in Saudi Arabia performing in the annual hajj pilgrimage.

Yudhoyono, meanwhile, had a proposal of his own: Give all migrant workers cell phones so they can call family members or authorities if they need help. "It just shows how little he understands the problems domestic workers abroad are facing," scoffed Rieke Dyah Pitaloka, an opposition lawmaker who is dealing with labor and domestic workers affairs. "Their employers are locking them up and taking away their passports ... they aren't going to let them keep a phone."

Most people believe little will change until girls are better educated and prepared for better jobs in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelagic nation of 237 million people, where the average wage is less than $300 a month.
Sumiati, a recent high school graduate from a fishing village on Sumbawa island, was bouncing with enthusiasm when she left for Saudi Arabia on July 18 with the help of a local recruitment agency, according to family and friends.

She saw it as a chance to be able to help her three younger siblings through school.
End Brutality Towards Domestic Workers
When the family — together with the rest of the country — first saw the cell phone picture of their little girl on television, they "went crazy."
"Her mother ... started crying hysterically and lost consciousness," Sumiati's uncle, Zulkarnain, was quoted as saying in the English-language The Jakarta Globe.

When they got Sumiati on telephone in the hospital, she said in a voice almost unrecognizable: "Please come in the form of angels and take me back home to my village."

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/feedarticle/9373991

Associated Press= JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) —

Extra Reporting: http://liranews.com/mdgs-en/2010/11/16/sadistic-housemaid-viciously-tortured/

http://news.okezone.com/read/2010/11/16/337/393881/kemenlu-juga-fasilitasi-keluarga-sumiati-ke-arab (Bahasa Indonesia)

[RAP: RAP supports the calls for strong diplomacy between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia on this issue. We have been present at the agency offices and departure points, when young women and men leave for uncertain, overseas experiences and the vulnerability that comes with it.

It is common practice for migrant workers to have their passports taken off them, to be denied access to phones and money, to be denied their right to adequate rest and reasonable work loads. The Indonesian government is negligent in allowing Indonesians to go overseas, unprepared and with no means of asking for help without cast-iron guarantees from overseas governments to protect and defend them. It is crucial for these safeguards to be put in place now, before the next murder takes place. Halt the flow of labour to the countries in which the abuse is taking place until those countries can demonstrate their determination to stop the abuse.]

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