Saudi snubs deal with Indonesia on maids

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Authorities in Saudi Arabia have refused to sign a draft deal with Indonesia that would allow domestic helpers in the Far Eastern country to once again seek work in the Gulf kingdom, it was reported.

Indonesia banned maids from travelling to the country for work in mid 2011 after requesting raises in minimum salary, weekly time off and reassurances over human rights after a number of cases of abuse by Saudi employers. Saudi responded by applying its own ban.

According to English language Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labour refused to sign the latest agreement after accusing Jakarta of wanting to interfere in disputes involving Indonesian nationals in Saudi courts.

The newspaper reported that Labour Minister Adel Fakeih told Muhaymin Iskander, his Indonesian counterpart, that Saudi Arabia did not want its legal system compromised by any deal.

It is estimated that there is currently 500,000 Indonesian workers living in Saudi Arabia.

Numerous Asian countries have fallen out with the kingdom over migrant workers’ rights.

The Philippines also recently demanded better conditions for its nationals in Saudi, while Sri Lanka has banned women under 25 years of age from travelling to Saudi Arabia for menial work, following the beheading of Rizana Nafeek, a 24-year old Sri Lankan working as a maid in Saudi.

The case drew international criticism as Nafeek was reportedly a minor at the time of allegedly murdering a child in her care.

Human rights groups claim as many as 79 people were executed in Saudi Arabia last year, the majority by public beheading with a sword.

However, millions of poorer people, mostly from south and south-east Asia, have flocked to the Gulf's most populous country in search of work.

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