To protect “human values and the dignity of the nation,” the Indonesian government has announced that it will ban its nationals from working as domestic help in Qatar and 20 other countries in the Middle East.
Speaking on Monday, the country’s Minister of Manpower and Transmigration Muhammad Hanif Dhakiri cited the execution of two of its nationals in Saudi Arabia last month as one of the reasons for the new restrictions.
“The situation concerning our migrant workers, who were working as domestic helpers, has led to many problems such as those related to labor norms and human rights violation.
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 is quoted by Indonesian state news agency Antara News as saying.
The ban is expected to come into effect in three months’ time, and is being imposed on any new workers applying for employment overseas. Indonesians already working abroad would not be affected.
The 21 countries covered by the ban are: Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Egypt, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, South Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Jordan.
The minister said that “the hard policy” was being implemented in countries where the rights of employers outweigh labor policies and protections for the domestic worker.
“This culture often leads to migrant workers becoming highly dependent on their employers. It also weakens their position, their working condition and lives,” he added.
The new ban appears to make permanent a moratorium that already existed on Indonesian women working in a number of states in the region. It was introduced in Saudi Arabia in June 2011, after an Indonesian national was beheaded there without informing Jakarta. The woman had admitted to killing her employer.
The temporary ban was also later extended to other countries including the UAE, Syria, Kuwait and Jordan.
In 2013, Indonesia also temporarily banned its citizens from working in Qatar as domestic helpers, saying it could not afford to assist the three to five women who were seeking shelter at the embassy daily who were fleeing abusive work environments.
A number of Gulf countries, including Qatar, have a sponsorship system in place that prevents an employee from leaving the country without their sponsor’s approval.
Almost a year ago, Qatar announced it would reform its kafala system, but the proposed changes stopped short of eradicating the exit permit requirement.
Earlier this week, the country’s Labor Minister said he “hoped” that the changes to the law would be made before the end of this year.
The Indonesian minister’s announcement echoes a similar statement made in February by the Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who called for an end to his country sending women abroad to work as housemaids and nannies, although no timeline had been mentioned.
“I have given Manpower Minister a target to come up with a clear roadmap on when we can stop sending female domestic workers. We should have pride and dignity,” Widodo said at the time, according to a report in the Straits Times.
In an editorial, the Jakarta Post described the latest ban as “unrealistic” and warned that it would drive the emigration process underground, leaving Indonesian women even more open to exploitation.
“The minister rightly cited the vulnerability of women to abuse in the private space of employers, but it is the task of the state to facilitate the right of citizens to work while constantly working to improve their protection.
A moratorium would be the better option instead of banning people working anywhere. Labor agencies with decades of experience in the Middle East could easily continue to recruit workers illegally, making our migrant workers even more prone to abuse,” the newspaper said.
It added that a lack of opportunities back home drive many Indonesians to seek employment in the Middle East.
Indonesians in Qatar
Qatar is home to around 20,000 Indonesians working in domestic roles, Amnesty International said last year, citing 2010 census data.
Domestic workers are vulnerable in part because they are not protected under the country’s Labor Law. There is no legal restriction on the maximum number of days a week or hours each day they can work.
“The fact that Indonesia has taken the drastic step of enforcing this ban speaks to how desperate the situation is,” Amnesty research Mustafa Qadri told Doha News.
“The ban reflects how serious the situation has become for migrant labour in the Gulf. The GCC states must urgently address the chronic abuse and absence of labour law protections for (tens of thousands) of domestic workers who are especially vulnerable to physical, sexual and other (forms of) violence.”
Last month, the case of an Indonesian woman working in Qatar who was hospitalized for several days with injuries she said were inflicted by her employer drew outrage.
The 25-year-old woman told Doha News she fled her sponsor’s home after being beaten by the metal end of a hose. Numerous scars, abrasions and scabs were visible on the woman’s back, arms, shoulders, stomach and face. She said they were the result of nearly two years’ of abuse at the hands of her employer.
The woman was later discharged from Hamad Hospital, but her status in Qatar remains unconfirmed.
Women who flee abusive situations here risk being caught by police. Labeled as “runaways,” they are then locked up in detention centers for months at a time while they await deportation.
Amnesty International’s 2014 report “My sleep is my break,” details cases of physical, psychological and sometimes sexual abuse inflicted on domestic workers by expat and local sponsors in Qatar.
For years, Qatar and other Gulf countries have been considering introducing a unified domestic workers’ contract, which would have stipulated basic working rights for women employed as household help in all the signatory states.
During a meeting in November last year, it appeared that the single contract was close to coming into effect. However, labor ministry representatives from various states later back-tracked, reportedly saying they didn’t have the authority to introduce any binding changes.
Good. I think this is a great move. Until the country can do something about exit permits, its really the only way to manage it. Yes, it will mean less opportunities for people to earn for families etc. back home but the risks sound like they are too high. Unless employers are going to treat their domestic workers like people (and not dogs) then they shouldn’t be allowed to employ anyone. Yes, its not every employer but too many to count and definitely more than a few rare cases.
I think dogs sometime receive better treatment…
I clean up after my dog, I feed my dog, I bathe my dog, I take her on a walk when she wants one.
Sometimes I’m left to wonder if I’m the maid in this equation.
The obvious solution of this equation is: yes, you are.
Your answer lies in if you care for her out of love or money.
Fair point both 🙂
thats why in the west you find homeless people, but not homeless pets .!!!!
You THINK you know so much but actually understand very little.
Homeless animals are taken to a pound and in some places killed if no one wants them.
from where i came from, people eat dogs…
If only the problem was as simple as the issue of Exit Permits.
Given that Qatar was one of 31 countries from the Arab world that have now been blacklisted (most of which do not have exit permits) we are left with the quite horrible proposition that the reason for the blacklist is endemic physical abuse, labor rights violations and lack of legal protection.
Yes, it is a lot more than the exit permits but at least the domestic workers would have a way to get out/go back home if things got bad.
The idea that the Indonesian embassies in all these countries were starting to buckle under the strain – financially and diplomatically – of caring for and repatriating the huge numbers of abused maids is just disgusting.
Wow, how racist are the Indonesians, they have only picked on Arab and Muslim countries. Qatar should make a formal protest and ask why evil European countries and Amercia are not included in this ban.
…master of satire on Dohanews
It’s not a bad point actually, since recently there was the trial (and conviction – that’s the important bit) of an abusive employer from Hong Kong.
Law Wan-tung was found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm, criminal intimidation and failure to pay wages to her maid Erwiana Sulistyaningsih. She was jailed for 6 years and received a fine.
I’m no legal expert, but I can’t really recall the last time I read any stories in the Gulf Times or on Doha News about an employer actually being found guilty and being punished in Qatar for abuse. Clearly there are abused maids – but what has become of the abusers?
Why is Indonesia continuing to send maids to Hong Kong, where there are also cases of abuse, but to Qatar? If I had to guess…
There was also the murder of two Indonesian, *ahem* domestic helpers in HK as well by that Britisher recently… he is on trail for their murder.
They are many cases of abuse, rape and enslavement in Qatar by sponsors on their maids but you hear of very few prosecutions and this can be for many reasons. One case I know of a Filipina ran away to the embassy after alledgingly being raped by both the sponsors sons, she told the Ethopian maid who had been there longer who was also being raped to escape with her but said she couldn’t as her family needed the money. She also wouldn’t report it for fear of being jailed and just wanted to go home. Very sad.
MIMH….look in the MIRROR..
it IS ARAB MUSLIM countries that treat people they consider LESS than human that do this treatment to fellow HUMANS .
ISLAM and the KORAN does NOT TEACH this…
Acutally Islam and the Koran does teach slavery, in fact Prophet Mohd was a slave owner and a slave trader. It does say you should treat your slaves with respect, but they are still slaves after all. (You are not supposed to let your female slaves sing as that is haram)
your ignorance knows no bounds.
Is anything I said factually incorrect? To add Prophet Mohd even married one of his slaves after encouraging her to convert from Judasim after the muslim armies killed the Jewish including her first husband.
ISLAM teaches you to treat people with respect and equality and not discriminate on the basis of race or class.
You can keep your ignorance to yourself. Your white masters in US might clap for your ignorant crap.
Deleting this because it’s stereotyping, and subsequent thread.
How sad. The victim has to put up with this abuses for fear of losing her job, for fear of being wrongfully accused and framed or for the fear being locked up in jail. They are more like birds in a cage who have lost their power to fly or get away even if the doors to the cage are left wide open.
My guess is that Qatar & other ME countries have no law or respect for indonesian or Filipino or ( insert country here ) people. HK which imports domestic help has laws which are enforced regardless of ethnicity or background. Indonesia were also mightily pissed that Saudi Arabia recently killed, beheaded, like ISIL do, 2 Indonesians with out exploring all legal avenues or pre-informing Indonesia. The Indonesian people are naturally upset. Many countries abide and have a fair system of jurisprudence..
Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Suadi etc can explect similar situations such as recently experienced by one Indonesian maid here
“The woman was later discharged from Hamad Hospital, but her status in Qatar remains unconfirmed.
Women who flee abusive situations here risk being caught by police.
Labeled as “runaways,” they are then locked up in detention centers for
months at a time while they await deportation.”
Any one want to bet we will never know the outcome, that she will simply disappear?
its not racism when “Arab” countries treats their maids like dogs… no worse than dogs! Dogs are fed, bathed, played, and sleep in a comfy place. Also, why Arab countries? Its because these problems arises mostly in Arab countries, I know that it also happens in other parts of the world but as I said it is more notorious in Arab countries. So before you complain, Arab countries should learn how to treat and give respect to their maids. (And no Im not implying all Arab household, but only some.)
Maybe I am naive but I find it bizarre that anyone would want to treat anyone like that in any such situation. It really makes you wonder what is wrong with the sort of people that would do something like this regardless of whatever cultural or ethnic background they’re from. I just find it really really odd. Are they projecting some sort sense of their own inadequacy or something? Could the sociologists/anthropologists/psychologists please explain?
Perhaps they (the Indonesians) as a muslim country themselves know fully well what they are talking about and they have had enough of this abuses of their poor and helpless workers and maids
They’ve just executed 6 people including 2 Australians. inspite of Australia thinking their citizens should be spared just because they are a white rich country.
Not only Australia protested, so did Brazil and the Phillipines, in fact the only person spared was the Filipina. If you looked at the colour of the Australians you would have noticed, they would not pass as ‘white’
The citizens wouldn’t pass as white but the country is and they tried to arm twist the Indonesians threatening to withdraw their ambassador and even put sanctions. Good on Indonesia to go ahead with the executions rather than get bullied by a country that thinks its citizens are above the law of the land.
So what do you think of Brazil and the Philippines that protested as well, don’t think they are ‘white’ nations. Death penalty solved nothing. Except in genocide and religious wars
As MIMH said, all the countries protested, except for Indonesia itself.
There were 8 people killed by Indonesia, Australia protested ( despite the non white-ness of the accused on death row thank you ) because Australia, like most civilised countries is anti death penalty for many reasons, least of all it’s not a deterrent to crime and is barbaric. ( as did Amnesty, HRW, the Un etc ) Australia didnt threaten to withdraw their ambassador but did so after the killings, a pointless hollow exercise.
The white rich country also protested because there were mitigating issues with the case, the culprits were caught because the father of one of the drug dealers reported his son to the Australian police prior to his leaving for Indonesia, where the drugs were purchased in order for the police to stop him going. The Aus police failed to stop them going, breaching their own rules. Australia didn’t think it’s citizens were above the rules, they thought that 10 years in jail, the obvious repentance and remorse along with the fact that the drugs were not smuggled in to Indonesia but were from Indonesia might have made a difference..oh, along with the small fact that while drug dealers were executed by Indonesia 34 of the 39 Bali bombers, who killed 211 people had been freed by Indonesia, not executed, might have been taken into account.
Yes but the Bali bombers killed non believers so that’s ok
Maybe these countries can see this an as opportunity and take steps to nationalise the domestic help industry. This will provide much needed jobs and those employed would be free from the sponsorship system as well as respecting the cultural and religious norms of the country.
The Indonesian Manpower Minister had this to say:
“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 degrades human values and the dignity of the nation.”
Perhaps I’m putting words in his mouth, but it would seem to me that he’s saying that cleaning toilets, mopping floors, cooking meals (things that I do myself, as does every person I know) are “degrading” and lacking in “dignity”.
With that sort of sentiment I can’t imagine the manpower importing countries taking the view that perhaps they don’t need a maid. For many of them they cannot imagine life without one.
Are you getting beaten up by your wife if she doesn’t like your food?
I think you are putting words in his mouth. More (I think) he was referring to the complete lack of legal protections for his fellow citizens here in Qatar because of the fact that the labor law does not apply to domestic workers. I think very few expats/migrant laborers here would find cooking and cleaning beneath them because as you rightly pointed out, we all tend to do these tasks for ourselves back in our home countries. No shame in any job as long as it’s done well…at least in our cultures.
Which labor law susan ?
I wish you could understand the situation more than Just “cleaning,cooking,mopping”. It goes way beyond that! These “domestic helpers” have no rights whatsoever, you’ll see mostly that they are made to wear uniform which looks horrible, not allowed to have any outside contacts, only allowed to go out if the ‘Owner’ is going out, fear of being reported to the police, passport taken and many more. They may be getting good wages, but definitely not getting the basic rights of normal human beings. Also I would like to add that this is only relevant to some people and obviously not all.
Yeah very true, it maybe relevant to a few people but every one else gets a bad name because of this few bad people because the authorities have not taken the steps to control and eradicate this inhumane treatment of this poor and helpless workers and now Indonesia is taking matters into its own hands to safeguard its citizens and that’s a very good move by them and things will get messy if other countries choose to follow the Indonesians in providing safeguards to their people
Their governments have to do something. As horrible as some of the women have it, they still need the money. Their government will have to provide some kind of alternative opportunity for income or else a black market will pop up with even higher agency fees and women wouldnt be able to go to their embassies if something happened to them if it became illegal.
Qatar won’t care much. They can buy domestic slaves elsewhere.
Usually African countries as they don’t care how much their citizens get abused.
in fact I have read somewhere they want to start with Chile, I am wondering if Chilean women would really come here….
Haha! I think some Latino women can be firey ladies so would love to see one of them putting an out-of-line employer in their place… I’d pay to see that 😀
Not sure about Chilean but I’ll bet some women from Mexico and El Salvador would consider it especially if the borders are getting more strict crossing to the states (although language could be an issue).
I am sure they don’t even know where is Qatar….
Deleting for trolling.
I don’t know about the other 20 countries covered by the ban, but I think Mr. Dhakiri acted way too soon with respect to Qatar. He obviously hasn’t heard of the new campaign that would put his fears to rest, ensuring him that “(Indonesian maids) Matter in Qatar.” Perhaps Mr. Al Khulaifi from MOLSA could express mail him one of the new campaign t-shirts as an act of goodwill. I’m sure that would change his mind.
Lets see if there is ONE Arab woman who can TRY to work as a domestic help ????
they can barely work at normal working job, let alone contribute to their own households !
Shabina, can you delete that for generalizing and bringing one culture into unjustified discredit.
Something for ignorant like you to learn.
Deleting for racist remark.
Good move 🙂
“where the rights of employers outweigh labor policies and protections for the domestic worker”…..wow…Strong words n action!!
I can’t imagine a world where hands carrying Birkin bags and encrusted with Harry Winston and Van Cleef do their own dishes…heaven forbid! Lol
Reading from the article……..They are in trouble from abuse if they don’t flee …. and in trouble from the police if they flee….. looks like this poor and helpless workers are caught between the Devil himself and the deep sea…… Just wondering why the authorities are not doing anything about this matter which eventually goes to give the country and its people a very bad publicity
Wow what a great nation really,,, even it is little bit of troublesome for some but its very good for the Nation… appreciated,, hope India will realize as well
Excellent job Indonesia. Stop sending your innocent people to be the slaves of wild beasts.