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Indonesia to stop sending domestic workers to 21 countries

Jakarta blacklists countries across the Middle East after Saudi Arabia executes two Indonesian prisoners

Indonesia will stop sending domestic workers to 21 countries, media reports said Tuesday, after the executions of two Indonesian women last month in Saudi Arabia angered Jakarta.

The new policy will go into effect in three months, Minister of Manpower Muhammad Hanif Dhakiri told Indonesian media. Blacklisted countries include Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt, Algeria, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, South Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen and Jordan, state-run news agency Antara reported.

Jakarta, which has long complained of the treatment of Indonesian domestic workers in the Middle East, placed a moratorium on sending additional workers to Saudi Arabia in 2011 after the beheading of domestic worker Ruyati binti Sapubi.

The new move is expected to be permanent. Domestic workers already employed in the affected countries will be allowed to stay at their jobs.

"According to the law, the government has the right to stop the placement of migrant workers in particular countries if it is believed that their employment degrades human values and the dignity of the nation," Antara quoted Dhakiri as saying. 

Citing the recent executions of Indonesian domestic workers Siti Zainab and Karni binti Medi Tarsim in Saudi Arabia, Dhakiri said there were "many problems" with Indonesians working abroad related to "labor norms and human rights violations." 

Zainab, who rights groups said was mentally ill, was sentenced to death in 1999 after confessing to killing her female employer after alleged mistreatment, Amnesty International said. Tarsim was convicted of killing a 4-year-old child she cared for by stabbing him, BBC News reported.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry summoned the Saudi ambassador to Indonesia after the executions, complaining that Jakarta had not been informed of the executions beforehand. Drug trafficking, rape, murder, apostasy and armed robbery are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia’s strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Dhakiri said Jakarta will tighten placement of domestic workers to parts of East and Southeast Asia — including Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia — through measures such as auditing domestic helper training centers and blacklisting rogue agencies.

A Hong Kong woman was imprisoned for six years in February for beating and starving her Indonesian domestic worker and keeping her prisoner, in a high-profile case that drew attention to the abuse of domestic helpers in the financial hub. 

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who took office last year, vowed in February that domestic workers — some of whom face verbal, physical and sexual abuse — would no longer be sent abroad, although he did not specify when that would take effect. Previous Indonesian administrations made similar pledges.

Al Jazeera and Agence France-Presse

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