Indonesia’s decision to stop sending domestic helpers to Kuwait citing concerns over abuse and exploitation stirred indignation among Kuwaitis, while an official at the Indonesian embassy said he was not aware of the reasons behind the decision.
The ban is seen as an insult to Kuwait as it tarnishes the country’s image concerning the treatment of domestic laborers, said Fadel Ashkanani, head of the Kuwaiti Union of Domestic Labor Offices (KUDLO).
“Kuwait is one of the most popular destinations for domestic help,” he told Al Arabiya. “It ranks first in the Gulf region regarding the number of maids in relation to the native population.”
The popularity of Kuwait, Ashkanani argued, is a result of the positive feedback maids give to their families back home and which increases demand to work there despite the fact that salaries are not big in comparison to other countries.
“The problem is that some Asian labor offices send unqualified maids. This reflects negatively on both the sending and receiving countries.”
Ashkanani expressed his indignation at the way the problem was dealt with on the part of the Indonesian Ministry of Labor.
“If a few Indonesian maids were having problems, the necessary measures could have been taken without tarnishing the reputation of Kuwait. If some labor offices are engaged in violations, this should not be generalized to reflect the entire country.”
He stressed that KUDLO is always ensures all parties involved are treated fairly. This includes the maid, the guardian, and the labor office.
Ashkanani stated that despite the fact that the Embassy of Indonesia in Kuwait stopped dealing with KUDLO, other embassies are still working with the union without any problems.
“We work with the embassies of India and Ethiopia and the labor used from those countries is more than that from Indonesia.”
The Embassy of Indonesia received instructions from the Indonesian Labor Ministry instructing that no more maids be sent to Kuwait, but the reasons were not mentioned, said Ares Teriano, First Secretary at the Embassy of Indonesia in Kuwait.
“Kuwait and Indonesia are currently working on drafting a memorandum of understanding that regulates the work of Indonesian labor in Kuwait,” he told Al Arabiya. “This is supposed to improve the conditions of maids working here.”
Teriano attributed the signing of this memorandum to the huge numbers of Indonesian maids working in Kuwait, well in excess of 60,000. Till then, there will be no dealing with KUDLO.
“In the time being, we only work with labor offices that do not operate under KUDLO’s umbrella.”
When asked if he noticed a remarkable increase in complaints from Indonesian maids in Kuwait, Teriano said he has no statistics that can determine that. He also refused to reveal the number of Indonesian maids who took refuge in the embassy.
“All that I can say is that the embassy is keen on providing the best and most humane working environment for its citizens. We will solve the problems of the maids in the embassy and send them back home as soon as possible.”
As for the most common problems that Indonesian maids face in Kuwait, Teriano said they mostly revolve around financial matters, especially not getting their salaries paid.
“Regarding abuse and exploitation, I believe this is a problem, according to press reports, that all foreign maids face, not only Indonesians.”
According to press reports, more than 500 Indonesian maids took shelter in the embassy after complaining that they were beaten up and/or denied pay and they are all waiting to be sent home.
Indonesia imposed a similar ban on Malaysia when an Indonesian maid sustained critical injuries after her Malaysian employer severely beat her and scalded her body with boiling water then locked her in the bathroom. Mantik Hani, believed to have been locked up for two days without food, died in a Kuala Lumpur hospital a week after she was rescued.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).