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Thu 7 May 2015 10:20 AM

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Indonesia bans expats working to 21 Middle East countries

Minister for Manpower claims the blacklisted countries, including the Gulf, are prone to violations of legal and human rights, while he’s also angry at executions of 2 Indonesian maids

Indonesia bans expats working to 21 Middle East countries
Image for illustrative purpose only. (Getty Images)

Indonesia has banned new maids from working in 21 Middle Eastern countries including the UAE and Saudi Arabia in protest over working conditions it claims are prone to violations of legal and human rights.

The largest Muslim country in the world also is angry over Saudi Arabia’s recent execution of two Indonesian maids, without warning.

Minister of Manpower Hanif Dhakiri told media the decision was in line with President Joko Widodo’s order in February to eventually stop sending Indonesian women abroad to work as domestic helpers.

The blacklisted countries also include Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt, Algeria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, South Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen and Jordan, state-run news agency Antara reported.

The ban would come into effect in three months but it would not affect the 1.4 million Indonesian maids already in the 21 countries and they would be allowed to renew their contracts.

Dhakiri said the execution of Indonesian maids Siti Zaenab and Karni in Saudi Arabia last month was one of the factors taken into consideration while making the policy decision, despite the fact Indonesia executed seven foreigners against their countries protests.

"The situation concerning our migrant workers, who were working as domestic helpers, has led to many problems such as those related to labour norms and human rights violation," he was quoted as saying by Antara.

He said migrant workers in Middle Eastern countries were poorly protected from working and human rights abuses.

"According to the law, the government has the right to stop the placement of migrant workers in particular countries if it is believed that their employment will degrade human values and the dignity of the nation," Dhakiri reportedly said.

The Wall Street Journal said Dhakiri claimed Indonesian maids in Middle East countries had been subject to violations of labour norms and human rights, “and even human trafficking”.

Indonesia has previously temporarily banned its women from working in some Gulf states amid controversy over their contracts and salaries.

A Saudi official reportedly said the Indonesian decision would not affect the kingdom’s large expatriate workforce.

Indonesians account for only 1 percent of foreign labour in the kingdom, Saudi Council of Chambers’ head of the National Committee for Recruitment Saad Al Badah was quoted as saying by Makkah daily.

“Indonesian expatriates are typically drivers and workers at private companies in the Kingdom. The Indonesian government’s ban will hardly affect us as Saudi Arabia has expatriates from various nationalities,” he was quoted as saying.

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