Indonesia, Philippines furious with treatment of workers overseas
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Indonesia, Philippines furious with treatment of workers overseas

LESS than three months after Asean signed a landmark document to protect migrant workers, a fresh slate of abuse cases on Indonesian and Filipino workers overseas are sparking new waves of outrage in their home countries.

A domestic worker from East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia died on Sunday in a Penang hospital after being forced to sleep on the porch of her employer’s house with a Rottweiler for a month. In Kuwait, the body of an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) had been found in a freezer in an apartment.

All Filipinos are now barred from travelling to Kuwait for employment, the New York Times reported.

“As to the need for justice, we will hold Kuwait responsible under the concept of state responsibility,” Harry Roque, a spokesman for Phillippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday.

SEE ALSO: Dead Filipina found inside freezer in Kuwait triggers total workers’ deployment ban


Migrant worker women from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Philippines on their day off in Hong Kong. Source: Rex Pe / Flickr

Filipino victims should get legal redress from Kuwait for these “horrendous crimes”, he said.

Duterte had lashed out after receiving news of that Filipina domestic worker Joanna Daniella Demafelis’ body had been found. Her body was suspected to have been stored in the freezer for a year.

In a speech at his hometown Davao City last Friday, he accused Kuwait of killings dozens of OFWs in 2016 alone, according to Rappler.

“What are you doing to my countrymen?” Duterte asked.

“Is there something with your culture? Is there something wrong with your values?”

Duterte announced that he will be speaking to leaders in the Middle East Country on this as well. “This is a national shame,” he said.

The Consulate General of Indonesia in Penang has called on the Malaysian police to investigate the death of 21-year-old Adelina Lisao. The domestic worker was rescued last Saturday at her employer’s home, with severe injuries on her head and face, and infected wounds on her limbs.

“We pay serious attention to this issue as it involved one of our people,” its Deputy Consul-General Osrinikita Zubhana said.

“We hope that with the help of the local authorities, the matter can be resolved,” Osrinikita said. The consulate said it did not receive any complaint from Adelina before her death.

Information obtained by The National Body of Indonesian Workers’ Placement and Protection (BNP2TKI0) from the Malaysian forensic team found that Adelina died from anaemia, lack of haemoglobin as well as malnutrition and organ failure from extended neglect, according to Kompas.

The preliminary forensic finding did not reveal any signs of beatings or internal bleeding. Three members of the Malaysian family that employed Adelina have been detained for possible murder, The Associated Press reported.

Both Southeast Asian countries send millions of workers overseas. Many are females working as domestic workers. Reports of abuse continue, despite attempts at reform in both Malaysia and Kuwait.

Migrant workers in Kuwait suffer from lack of legal protections, exposing themselves to abuse, forced labour and deportations for minor infractions, a Human Rights Watch report published last month found.


Indonesian migrant workers protest in Hong Kong in 2012. Source: AP

SEE ALSO: Asean reaches regional consensus over rights of migrant workers

In Malaysia, several high-profile cases in recent years saw Indonesian maids being starved to death, or having a hot iron pressed against their breasts and thighs. While these have led to the introduction of regulations to protect domestic workers, rights groups say enforcement is rare.

Kuala Lumpur-based migrant rights group Tenaganita said Adelina’s case was “symptomatic of a widespread and deep-seated malaise” and not an isolated one.

Adelina’s death is “murder”, Executive-Director Glorene DasDas said in a statement. “Any death or abuse of domestic workers is far too many … we definitely want significant changes,” she said.

Malaysian law does not recognise foreign maids like Adelina as workers, but as servants with lesser rights, a situation local activists have long urged for reform.