Jakarta (VNA) – The Indonesian government has lifted a moratorium on sending Indonesian citizens to the Middle East as domestic helpers but cautioned that those who take up offers of employment in the region must follow the proper procedures to ensure they are fully protected.
Speaking in a press meeting, Manpower Minister Ida Fauziyah said that the decision is intended to improve the governance and protection of Indonesian migrant workers in the Middle East.
The minister emphasised that workers need to follow the procedures prescribed between the two countries as well as the laws of the host country so that the government can protect workers during the process of going to work until returning to Indonesia.
In 2015, Indonesia made it illegal for migrant workers to be sent to any of 19 Middle Eastern nations, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, to work for individual employers, citing abuses that workers had encountered there.
The measure came as several Middle Eastern countries have been accused of unfairly treating migrant workers under the Kafala patronage system (the legal framework that allows private citizens and companies in most Gulf states to enjoy near-total control over the employment and immigration status of foreign workers).
The Kafala sponsorship system requires migrant workers to have a host country sponsor, usually the employer, who is responsible for the migrant worker's visa and legal status. This means that employers can control the movement of workers – including entry, extension of stay, termination of employment and job transfer – powers that the International Labor Organization has warned that it is easy to turn into forced labor.
According to January 2023 data from the Saudi Arabia Foreign Ministry, about 351,000 Indonesian migrant workers have valid visas in the Middle East country, of them about 264,000 women.