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Saudi Arabia to expel additional Indonesian workers

Khabar Southeast Asia - 10 February 2015 - Indonesian officials vow to do all they can to help undocumented labourers with their forced repatriation from the kingdom.

Some 27,000 Indonesian migrants who overstayed their work permits in Saudi Arabia are being kicked out and sent home gradually.

A first batch numbering about 500 migrants returned from the kingdom January 19th. Indonesian government officials say they are working to ease their transition, find them jobs at home as well as take measures to uphold and protect their rights in the foreign workplace.

"They are waiting to be repatriated. The embassy will continue to work on providing services for them," Deputy Indonesian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Sunarko said in a phone interview from Riyadh on Thursday (February 5th).

The number of Indonesian migrants who overstay their visas is increasing each year, he told Khabar Southeast Asia.

"We need to work with other departments to solve this situation," he said.

At a January 28th meeting of foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi said that her department would pursue efforts at the regional and international levels to protect the rights of migrant workers.

At the meeting in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, she emphasised "the importance of ensuring protection for migrant workers, especially in the ASEAN region, following the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC)," Antara reported.

"Our goal is in line with the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers," she said.

Later, when asked about the thousands of Indonesians destined for a one-way plane ticket home from Saudi Arabia because their work papers had expired, Retno said Jakarta would deal with the challenge.

"We are concerned with the situation of our migrant workers in Saudi Arabia. We will continue our efforts to bring them home. At the same time, it is important to find job opportunities for them so they will remain in the country and contribute more for Indonesia. This is our commitment," she told Khabar.

The 27,000 Indonesians to be deported from Saudi Arabia exceeds the 20,379 sent home by the kingdom last year for staying on after their permits expired, Indonesian Deputy Foreign Minister Abdurrahman Mohammad Fachir said.

"For [this] repatriation, we will make a priority for vulnerable groups such as children, infants, elderly and the sick," he told Khabar.

The need for a safety net

The World Bank estimates 6.5 million Indonesians worked abroad in 2012. That year according to the Migrant Institute, they contributed 91.4 trillion rupiah ($7.2 billion) back to their home economy.

Yet many migrant workers from Indonesia and other Asian countries find themselves working abroad for low wages and poor benefits – often under exploitative conditions.

Pursuing diplomacy and instituting regional and international laws are essential for shielding Indonesia's migrant workforce from exploitation or abuse, Migrant Institute Executive Director Adi Candra Utama said. Workers need to be trained in order to be able and ready for jobs overseas, he added.

"Ready means they are skilled to do the work and to know their rights and responsibilities. They must also follow the [regulations]," he told Khabar. "The government will need to ensure their protection. Therefore, we need to appreciate them, support them, and protect them."

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