x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Indonesia plans cut in maid numbers to UAE

Abuse case in Saudi Arabia and the number of domestic workers fleeing employers in the UAE pose serious concerns for embassy officials.

M Wahid Supriyadi, the Indonesian ambassador, says he will recommend deployment of more professionals in the UAE from his country.
M Wahid Supriyadi, the Indonesian ambassador, says he will recommend deployment of more professionals in the UAE from his country.

ABU DHABI // Indonesian maids are free to continue seeking jobs in the UAE, although the country's ambassador plans to recommend a reduction in their numbers in favour of skilled and professional workers.

The embassy is also concerned about the number of female workers fleeing their employers' homes in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, M Wahid Supriyadi, the Indonesian ambassador to the UAE, said.

Mr Supriyadi made his comments after the Indonesian state of West Nusa Tenggara last week banned recruitment of its residents for work in Saudi Arabia following the high-profile abuse case of Sumiati Binti Salan Mustapa.

The 23-year-old housemaid claimed her Saudi employers burned her with an iron and stabbed and slashed her with scissors during a beating that caused internal bleeding and multiple broken bones. Saudi Arabia's labour ministry said in a statement late last month that it was sorry about the case, but called it an isolated incident.

About 70 per cent of the 100,000 Indonesian expatriate workers in the UAE are housemaids, and as such are not covered by the UAE's labour law, but instead are the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior. The embassy and consulate combined have attested contracts for another 24,108 housemaids so far this year.

"So far, there have been no discussions about any call by our government, NGOs or the Islamic groups to stop sending housemaids to the UAE," Mr Supriyadi said.

"What I would like to recommend is the deployment of more professionals instead of household workers. For instance, a few hundred more Indonesian engineers are needed in the oil and petrochemical industries in Abu Dhabi and Ruwais."

Mr Supriyadi said there was also a demand for nurses and other medical workers, security guards, waiting staff and chefs in the hospitality sector.

Since the beginning of the year, 754 Indonesian women had sought temporary refuge at the embassy's shelter, said Hannan Hadi, the head of the consular section at the Indonesian embassy.

There are about 90 women living at the shelter, down from 105 at the start of the year.

Mr Supriyadi said the number of physical abuse cases among Indonesian housemaids who sought shelter at the embassy in Abu Dhabi was "minimal".

The majority complained of unpaid salaries, verbal abuse and unfair working hours, he said.

"The only serious abuse case we handled this year was that of a housemaid whose female employer [tried to] strangle her last April," Mr Supriyadi said. "We helped her file a case in court and she is currently staying in our shelter while waiting for the court's verdict."

Almost all of the cases of the 754 women who have passed through the shelter have been resolved. Of those, 320 were sent back to Indonesia and 253 returned to their former sponsors or agencies. The embassy also helped 76 maids in now-resolved court cases filed against their sponsors.

The Indonesian government has a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the UAE for its formal workers - skilled, semi-skilled and professional workers - ensuring that their rights and welfare are protected under the labour law. However there is no such agreement in place to protect housemaids.

The embassy instead resolved problems with employers through mediation with recruitment agencies and co-operation with UAE immigration officials, Mr Supriyadi said.

"We haven't held discussions with the UAE to come up with a similar MoU for our informal workers [domestic workers]," he said. "But we welcome any bilateral agreement with the UAE."

rruiz@thenational.ae