Indonesia Plans Boat Mission for Workers Stuck in Saudi

The Jakarta Globe

The government will send a ship to ferry home the nearly 3,000 remaining Indonesian workers who mostly have overstayed their visas in Saudi Arabia, an official said on Friday.

Roostiawati, head of foreign cooperation at the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration, said it would bring home 2,927 migrant workers, the last batch to be repatriated by the state.

Earlier, the government had arranged flights back to Indonesia for more than 2,000 workers who had overstayed their visas or who were found to have worked in Saudi illegally. Some had misused their hajj permits.

Out of work and with no means to return to their homeland, thousands of these workers have been living under the Kandara Bridge in Jeddah.

Roostiawati said the Labobar, a 3,245-capacity vessel, would set sail on Sunday to pick up the workers in Jeddah. It is expected to return to Jakarta in 25 days.

The Labobar is scheduled to leave Jakarta’s Tanjung Priok harbor on Sunday at 3p.m. and is expected back in the same port on around May 2 or 3.

She said the ship would be manned by a crew of 161 people, including medical staff.

Roostiawati said the government opted to charter a ship because it was “the most efficient way.”

“With the ship, we can pick them all up at once, and we can [process their immigration documents] on the ship. Therefore, they can go directly to their hometown once they arrive in Jakarta,” she said.

“For sure, we are going to provide them with meals three times a day and also [health care],” the ministry official added.

Manpower Minister Muhaimin Iskandar said on Friday that the government would be “not be selective in repatriating Indonesian workers living under the bridge in Jeddah.”

The minister said they would be brought home regardless of their offenses.

Many of the Indonesians in Jeddah had legally entered Saudi Arabia as migrant workers, but they later ran into problems with their employers.

Others arrived there with a hajj visa, issued for minor pilgrimages to Mecca, but illegally sought work in the country. They account for 30 percent of overstaying workers, the ministry said.

“We will also repatriate the people who went to Jeddah with a hajj visa,” Muhaimin said. “All the travel expenses will be paid by the government.”

He said his office and other concerned institutions would improve the placement of migrant workers abroad, especially in the Middle East.

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