Friday, September 30, 2011

The trial court in Dwarka, NCT of Delhi, in a recent verdict relating a Sri Lankan refugee, has stated that the court cannot be party to the persecution of a refugee. J. Venkatesan in an article in The Hindu reported the legal proceedings of the Magistrate’s Court which make for interesting and relevant observations. The Magistrate, while holding in favour of the accused refugee has also noted that there is a need to distinguish and address the needs of a migrant and a refugee in the legal discourse through two separate laws. In this context he pointed out that the absence of a legal framework to address the specific needs of a refugee in India despite several deliberations on a Model National Law: The Refugee and Asylum Seekers (Protection) Bill, 2006 is. Under the given circumstances refugee protection has to be met within the framework that is available under Foreigner's Act, 1946. In the reported case, Mr Chandra Kumar (a resident since 1990, in the refugee camp Tiruvallur in Tamil Nadu) was accused of non-possession of travel documents by the Indian immigration authorities. He was then charged with cheating, impersonation and forgery and other offences under of the Foreigners Act, 1946. “He moved an application for plea bargaining. An order on sentence ought to have been passed forthwith. However, the Additional Public Prosecutor, on instructions from the government, contended that an order of deportation should form part of the order on sentence”. Responding to these, the court rejected the plea for deportation on the grounds that it goes against the premise of natural justice that should be available to citizens and non-citizens.

For details visit; (accessed on 23 September 2011)

Protection of Domestic Workers in Saudi Arabia- Distant Dream by Shamim

After Saudi Arabia beheaded a 54-year old Indonesian grandmother in June for stabbing her Saudi employer to death, Indonesia declared a moratorium on the migration of its nationals for domestic employment in the desert kingdom, effective August 1.

Although the two countries were to adopt a bilateral agreement for protection of Indonesian domestic workers in Saudi Arabia this year, no such document has been signed.

Ruyati Binti Satubi, a household worker from West Java was executed for murder after she confessed slaying the man who had contracted her. The Indonesian migrant, who has three children, said she killed her employer because she was denied permission to return to her native land.

Media in Indonesia and elsewhere indicated that Ruyati Binti Satubi had been subjected to other forms of abuse while working in the Saudi home, located in Mecca, Islam's holiest city. Neither the Indonesian authorities nor her family was informed of the death sentence until after it was carried out, an action for which the Saudi regime apologized to Jakarta. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono wrote in protest to Saudi King Abdullah after the execution, and the Indonesian authorities followed up with the moratorium on exporting labourers, enforced visibly at airports and through contracting agencies.

The beheading of Ruyati Binti Satubi was only the most recent in a series of shocking cases involving Indonesian domestic workers in Saudi Arabia.

In April, Saudi authorities overturned a three-year prison sentence against a 53-year old Saudi woman in Medina, for "torture" in the beating and burning of her 23-year old maid, Sumiati Binti Salan Mustapa.

That incident, like the execution of Ruyati Binti Satubi, caused widespread protest in Indonesia, as well as increased reluctance to undergo the risks of working in Saudi Arabia, which Indonesian workers described as "horror stories." Indonesian media report that the flow of migrant workers to the kingdom had already decreased by 30 percent in the first quarter of this year.

With imposition of the August labour embargo, Indonesia was expected to lose $350 million worth of income. Some 20 Indonesians, mainly women, are said to face capital punishment in Saudi Arabia. Indonesian officials say that 370,000 of their citizens went to work in Saudi Arabia in 2010. Of these, more than 90 percent are employed in the so-called "informal sector," that is, paid in cash, without record-keeping or government oversight. The British media states, however, that 1.5 million Indonesians are working in Saudi Arabia.

Complaints of physical abuse and murder of Indonesian domestic servants by Saudis have produced hundreds of cases, but like other emigrant labourers in Saudi Arabia, Indonesians have no rights.
Indonesia had imposed new regulations on the employment of emigrants to Saudi Arabia, under which the Saudi employee would be required to earn at least $2,800 per month, and the number of family members and layout of the residence would be registered.

Because of the rigid oversight of relations between family and non-family members as dictated by Wahhabism, the Saudi state form of Islam, the kingdom has one of the highest proportions of immigrant laborers in the world; they currently account for 5.5 million out of 26 million people, or 20 percent. Foreign observers describe the Saudi demand for foreign housemaids, drivers, and similar employees as inexhaustible. Saudi subjects are discouraged from such work.

Millions of Pakistanis, Afghans, Indians, Bangladeshis, Indonesians, Filipinos, South Koreans, and Sri Lankans receive low wages, when not subjected to outright slavery and extreme abuse while toiling for Saudi masters. Domestic and other low-skill workers live apart from the Anglo-American, other European, and similar foreign technicians, who serve the petrochemical and other advanced industries, and who reside in segregated, protected communities that seek to reproduce the conditions in their advanced countries of origin.

While no religion other than Islam is permitted in public observance in Saudi Arabia, foreign petrochemical and defence professionals are allowed to hold Christian and other services within their homes. But Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus from the Philippines, South Korea, and Sri Lanka are prohibited from practicing their faiths; even Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indonesian Muslims, who work in Saudi Arabia face religious discrimination. For example, preaching in South and Southeast Asian mosques and similar activities are forbidden, as are Sufi observances, popular in Pakistan and Indonesia alike. No other Muslim state imposes such restrictions. Nevertheless, many Muslims are lured to work in the kingdom because of its religious prestige.

With 86 percent of its population of 245 million counted as Muslims, Indonesia has the largest Islamic population of any country in the world. Indonesian domestic workers earn about $200 per month in Saudi Arabia, a wage superior to those an Indonesian migrant villager with a primary-school education would be paid in the east Asian industrialized nations, such as Japan or Taiwan.

At the beginning of August, the official Saudi Arab News announced that two Indonesian women sentenced to beheading would be reprieved and repatriated. Identified only by their first names, Emi was convicted of killing her employer's child, and Nesi of using "black magic" against her employer. Executions for the alleged "witchcraft" are common in the kingdom, which has experienced recurrent panic over "sorcery."

Climate Induced Migration is Expected to Increase in Asia

In an article titled “More than 30 million climate migrants in Asia in 2010” Fiona Harvey reports, based on information and analysis by the Asian Development Bank that while climate change resulted in creating 30 million migrants in 2010 in Asia, the problem will only get worse in the years to come. A conference held in Manila, Philippines, on 13 September 2011 on Climate induced migration has concluded that climate change will be one of major reasons for migration across Asia in the years to come; “socio-economic transformations” and “a high degree of exposure to environmental risks” are some of the key reasons for making Asia and the Pacific vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Asia, including South Asia is not new to migration that can be linked to phenomenon such as droughts, or flooding. The story of migration of Bangladeshi's across the border into India is one of deprivation coupled with declining agricultural productivity, and drought. What would be pertinent, from a migration point of view, is the way states in Asia understand and address migration. Among the possible policy recommendations that the ADB is expected to make, as is clear from the Philippines conference are to include “measures to improve vital infrastructure, such as energy provision, transport systems and communication networks, in order to make such infrastructure more resilient to the effects of climate change.” (Background note to the Conference is available at

From the perspective of countries that naturally allow for easy migration but the political systems that does not encourage the same, it would be pertinent to note that climate change induced migration provides another important vantage point from which to undo the received wisdom of what is acceptable migration and who are acceptable migrants.

The news article can be accessed at (accessed 16 September 2011) and information about the Conference held at Manila, Philippines at (accessed on 20 September 2011)

No comments: