No more work visas for Filipino, Indonesian domestics

RIYADH: The Kingdom on Wednesday said it will no longer hire Indonesian and Filipino domestic workers, citing strict requirements and “unfair” regulatory provisions imposed by the two Southeast Asian countries.

“The Ministry of Labor will stop issuing work visas for domestic workers for the Philippine and Indonesia from Saturday (July 2),” said Hattab Bin Saleh Al-Anzi, a spokesman of the Ministry of Labor.

Al-Anzi said that Saudi recruitment agents would recruit domestic workers including maids from different countries other than Indonesia and the Philippines. The ministry’s decision comes after some other “labor exporting countries have evinced keen interest” to send domestic helpers to work for Saudi families, said the spokesman, adding that the ban on recruitment will be followed strictly.

Indonesia had earlier said it was prohibiting its citizens from working as domestic servants in Saudi Arabia after the beheading of a maid convicted of murdering her Saudi employer early this month. Jakarta said that the ban will take effect Aug. 1 and remain in place until the Saudi government agrees to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to protect Indonesian workers’ rights, according to a report.

The spokesman said the Labor Ministry had been working with other countries to meet the shortfall expected from the stoppage of recruitment from Indonesia.

Arif Jamal, a recruitment agent who returned from Indonesia only last week, said the Saudi decision to stop issuing visas to Indonesian female migrant workers will finally close all doors of negotiations.

The Saudi decision to suspend recruitment from the Philippine comes after Manila put forward several strict conditions on the recruitment of domestic helpers.

Albert Q. Valenciano, labor attaché at the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, expressed sorrow and disbelief over the Saudi decision on Wednesday. Valenciano said that the embassy had sent a note verbale to the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs on June 19 requesting to hold a joint follow-up meeting, but there had been no response so far. On April 27, the Kingdom sent a delegation to the Philippines to negotiate the labor dispute, but talks broke down.

The Saudi side wants the Philippine government to alter a requirement in labor contracts that Saudi employers must sign before hiring Filipino domestic workers. The new contract made by Manila requires foreign employers to pay a minimum wage of $400 a month. The Saudi side has also expressed reservations on tighter restrictions imposed by Manila, which calls on employers to provide family information and the layout of the residence where the domestic worker will be working.

Based on Philippine government estimates, there are more than 1.2 million Filipinos working in the Kingdom, of which about 15 percent or 180,000 are domestic workers such as maids and drivers.

More than a million Indonesian workers are said to be in the Kingdom, mostly maids. Saudi officials have previously announced their plans to employ more domestic workers from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Eritrea, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Mali and Kenya.


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