Jakarta. Indonesia is set to start sending workers to the Middle East once more as it considers lifting a 2015 ban, an official said.
The government initially imposed a moratorium on women going to the Middle East to work as domestic helpers between 2010 and 2013 after several cases of abuse and torture. This was followed by a total ban for 21 countries in February 2015 after the Saudi government sentenced two female Indonesian workers to death.
The blacklisted countries include Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain, which have the biggest demand for domestic helpers, or maids.
Nusron Wahid, head of the Migrant Worker Protection and Placement Agency (BNP2TKI), told reporters in Jakarta last week that the government has been working on formalizing a plan that would see migrant workers, especially maids, being allowed to work abroad again.
This move was prompted by the fact that between 5,000 and 10,000 low-skilled workers had been sent abroad illegally every month since the moratorium came into effect, Nusron told BeritaSatu.com.
"We're happy that the government is set to allow sending workers abroad again. The government must certainly consider it, because it actually greatly benefits the country," said Aulia Febrina, director of Global Alwakil Indonesia, a local agency for migrant workers.
Since President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo ordered the ban, remittances to Indonesia declined moderately to $8.6 billion last year from $8.9 billion in 2016 and $9.6 billion in 2015.
New Protection Proposal
According to Nusron, Indonesia will send 30,000 domestic workers to the Middle East annually after the moratorium is lifted.
To protect the maids' rights, the BNP2TKI will follow the example of other countries with large numbers of migrant workers by imposing limits on maximum working hours for maids, similar to those of white-collar workers.
"The maids' working hours are now fixed. They may not be required to exceed the maximum working hours, just like other workers," Nusron said.
Maids will also no longer be allowed to stay in their employers' homes, which will ensure their protection, Nusron believes.
"This working model has been applied to migrant workers from the Philippines," he said.
Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, director for citizen protection and legal aid at the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said all stakeholders must be involved in drawing up a proper plan to solve issues related to migrant workers.
"One of the parameters is domestic management, from recruitment, processing, [skills] training, financing and more," he told reporters.