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Saudi visa ban a 'blessing in disguise'

Would-be migrant workers are safer as a result activists, religious leaders say

Indonesian migrant workers continue to fight for better labor conditions Indonesian migrant workers continue to fight for better labor conditions
  • Konradus Epa, Jakarta
  • Indonesia
  • July 7, 2011
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A visa ban imposed by Saudi Arabia on Indonesian domestic workers is a blessing in disguise, according to a migrant workers’ rights activist and Muslim religious leaders.

The Saudi Arabian government announced in late June it would soon stop issuing visas to Indonesian and Filipino maids because of “unfair regulatory provisions” demanded by Jakarta and Manila.

"If the Saudis as well as our government are not allowing them to go then they won’t face the possible risk of violence or maltreatment," they said yesterday.

A 2011 Human Rights Watch report says overseas workers "frequently endure forced confinement; food deprivation; and severe psychological, physical, and sexual abuse," in Saudi Arabia.

“I think it is a good thing,” said Stefanus Wahyu Susilo, a policy analyst from Migrant Care, said.

According to him, the Indonesian government’s demand for a memorandum of understanding on the protection of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia -- the draft of which was forwarded to the Saudi Arabian government in late May -- is useless.

“We do not have faith in that kind of policy,” he asserted.

Amidhan, chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), said the Saudi action would help ensure an MUI fatwa issued in 2000 banning overseas work by Muslim women unless they are accompanied abroad by their husbands is followed.

“This fatwa was issued because of religious and moral reasons,” he said. Sadly, many Muslim women ignored it, he added.

Said Aqil Siradj, chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, said the best protection for migrant workers is not to go to potentially dangerous destinations in the first place.

“We asked the government to stop sending Indonesian workers to Saudi Arabia long before it put a recent freeze on sending migrants there,” he recalled.

The Saudi tit-for-tat approach will only serve to reinforce this, he pointed out.

Related Report:

Migrant workers ‘must get protection’

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