300 Indonesian Workers Locked Up And Abused In Saudi Arabia

by
Laurel Dammann
300 Indonesian workers are held against their will in a recruitment facility in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia. Escapees report abuse, and authorities suspect murder.

Indonesian maids in Hong Kong. Wikimedia Commons: Flying Toaster

There are 300 Indonesian workers who are reportedly being held against their will by a recruitment company in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

This was brought to the attention of the Foreign Ministry after 10 workers ran away from the company's temporary shelter and sought help, claiming that there were many more who had not been so lucky and remained abused and imprisoned. The Indonesian Embassy and Saudi authorities are investigating the situation.

In 2015, approximately 6 million Indonesian citizens were working abroad, 75 percent of whom were women. Among the major destinations for those looking for domestic work were Middle Eastern countries, such as Jordan, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.

However, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia developed a tense working relationship after two Indonesian maids were convicted of murder and beheaded by Saudi courts. In response, Jakarta implemented a permanent moratorium on sending new helpers to the country. Unfortunately, this has paved the way for trafficking and human rights violations like the one currently under investigation in Riyadh.

According to Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, the Indonesian director of Protection and Legal Assistance for Indonesians Overseas, the initial report was made two weeks ago, and most of the people imprisoned were sent from the West Nusa Tenggara province in Indonesia to Saudi Arabia by the recruitment company in question. Since notification of the abuse, Iqbal says that the news has only gotten worse:

"There are several issues that have developed concerning their condition, including information that some of them have been killed and their bodies thrown away. I cannot yet give the details because the investigation is ongoing."

On Wednesday, the Saudi kingdom implemented a 90-day amnesty so that illegal workers could report themselves and go home without suffering any legal penalties. Of course, this hinges on the workers actually being able to get to authorities; if any are trapped in situations like those at the Riyadh recruitment center, this could not only be difficult, but also dangerous.

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