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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs              30  July 2011

Indonesia continues ban on workers to Saudis

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The government will press ahead with its plan to keep migrant workers from being sent to Saudi Arabia until an agreement on their protection is reached.

“Starting August 1, we will no longer allow informal workers to work in Saudi Arabia until a memorandum of understanding regarding their protection is signed,” Suhartono, a spokesman for the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry, said on Friday.

The moratorium was officially announced last month by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, shortly after an Indonesian worker in Saudi Arabia, Ruyati binti Sapubi, 54, was executed by beheading on June 18.

She had been convicted of killing her Saudi employer, who she said had abused her.

Yudhoyono denounced the beheading and accused the Saudi government of breaking the “norms and manners” of international relations. The Saudis did not notify Indonesian diplomats of the execution beforehand.

But Riyadh a few days after Jakarta announced the moratorium plan, said that it would no longer issue visas for Indonesian and Filipino workers.

“Before January 2011, we sent 40,000 to 50,000 maids to Saudi Arabia every month,” Suhartono said. “After that the number declined to 15,000 people a month, and now we are going to stop sending workers completely.”

He said the embargo would only affect domestic workers, not skilled workers. Meanwhile, he said, the government will focus on sending workers to countries like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, where they have protection.

He said the government was aware that the embargo could see more workers traveling to a third country and entering Saudi Arabia illegally by land.

“We will have to work harder to monitor agencies, to make sure they don’t send workers illegally,” he said.

Suhartono did not offer any information on when an agreement would be signed, saying only that were many issues to be settled first.


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