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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Report: Indonesia to enforce domestic worker ban in Qatar, MENA by 2017

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The Indonesian government wants all of its citizens working as domestic workers in the Gulf and several other countries to return home within two years, according to a media report.

The Muscat Daily reports that officials in Jakarta are preparing a “roadmap” to end the practice of women from the southeast Asian country working abroad as maids, nannies and cleaners by 2017.

An unnamed Indonesian diplomat in Oman was quoted as saying:

“The step was taken to provide better protection for Indonesian migrant workers since there have been numerous cases where those who work as domestic workers are being abused or underpaid. This calls for better protection of our workers.”

The 2017 deadline follows a ban announced earlier this year on Indonesian women moving abroad for jobs as domestic workers in nearly two dozen nations: 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.

At the time, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said the measure was necessary to preserve the “pride and dignity” of the country’s citizens.

‘Black market’

Since then, there has been little information released about how the ban would be implemented and how it would affect the approximately 20,000 Indonesian domestic workers estimated to be working in Qatar.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The Indonesian embassy in Doha declined to comment about the issue today.

Though the Muscat-based diplomat did not discuss how the measures would be enforced, the newspaper reported that incentives – such as offering loans to help workers return to their country or even start businesses in Indonesia – were under consideration.

However, some have expressed concerns that the ban was unrealistic and would create a black market of sorts for Indonesian women working as domestic workers in the Middle East.

In a recent opinion piece for Okaz, Saudi Arabian professor Ibrahim Ismail Kutbi said of the ban:

“What worries me is that the inability to meet employment needs of Saudi families will open the door to the black market and a bidding war will start. I don’t know how the ministry will solve such a complicated case torn between lack of recruitment options, the demand pressure and the violations that will spread so quickly in the worker’s black market.

Recruitment offices will also be affected by Indonesia’s decision, but they have their illegal ways to manage.”

Abuse concerns

This is not the first time Indonesia has attempted to block its citizens from working as domestic workers in the region.

The country temporarily banned its nationals from coming to Qatar as domestic workers in 2013, saying it could not afford to assist the three to five women who were seeking shelter at the embassy daily.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Domestic workers in Qatar 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.

Additionally, women who flee abusive situations here risk being caught by police. Labeled as “runaways,” they are then held 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.

One particularly brutal 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 earlier this year.

The woman has since returned to her country and a court case is pending against her sponsor.

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