Indonesian embassy warns maids to avoid Malaysia

(AFP) – Indonesia Tuesday warned its nationals not to work as maids in Malaysia after a weekend raid freed 105 women who were confined against their will and forced to work without pay.

In the latest maid abuse scandal to hit Malaysia, authorities said they had freed 95 Indonesians, six Filipinas and four Cambodians who toiled as housemaids by day but were locked inside a building near the capital Kuala Lumpur at night.

Recurring reports of abuse of Indonesian maids have soured relations between the two Southeast Asian neighbours and in 2009 prompted Jakarta to angrily cut off the supply of domestic workers to Malaysia.

The two sides announced a year ago that the ban would be lifted after they reaching an accord to provide maids better protection and working conditions.

But the latest case showed Indonesians were still at risk, especially those who come to Malaysia illegally without going through proper recruitment channels, a spokesman for Jakarta’s embassy said.

“The Malaysian authorities should take tough action… It’s better for Indonesian maids not to work in Malaysia,” spokesman Suryana Sastradiredja told AFP.

“They (Malaysia) are asking for Indonesian maids but they cannot protect them well.”

The women freed on Saturday — who according to Malaysian media reports had arrived illegally over the past several months — have been taken to a shelter and will eventually be sent back to Indonesia, Sastradiredja said.

Sastradiredja said that since the ban was lifted, fewer than 100 Indonesian maids had arrived through official channels, turned off by the low salaries and abuse reports.

But, citing reports from Indonesian and Malaysian activists, he said Jakarta fears thousands more may have been duped into coming illegally with promises of well-paid work since the ban was set in 2009, and were now working in vulnerable situations.

One of Southeast Asia’s most affluent and developed countries, Malaysia has long attracted women from its poorer neighbours, mostly Indonesia, seeking work as maids.

Before the ban, some 300,000 Indonesians were legally registered as working as maids in Malaysia.

Recurring incidents in which foreign maids have been confined, abused, beaten, or even killed have repeatedly rankled Malaysia’s neighbours.

In October, an advertisement in Malaysia that offered Indonesian maids “on sale” went viral online in Indonesia, sparking new outrage.

Last month, police said they were investigating a man in northern Malaysia for allegedly raping his 15-year-old Indonesian maid, while in a separate case, three police officers were charged with raping a 25-year-old Indonesian woman at a police station.

Cambodia also banned sending maids to Malaysia last year following numerous abuse complaints.