Page last updated at 02:09 GMT, Wednesday, 16 April 2008 03:09 UK

Worker 'tricked into going to Iraq'

By Lucy Williamson
BBC News, Jakarta

Darmianti binti Jaba Saleh
Darmianti is taking the agency that sent her to Iraq to court

Darmianti binti Jaba Saleh only realised where she was when she pulled out the pile of money she had been given.

Written across the top of the notes were the words "Bank of Iraq".

Darmianti was having her medical check-up prior to being placed as a domestic worker in the Kurdish north of Iraq.

The only problem was that she had not been told she was going to Iraq at all.

When she left her home in Indonesia, the agent sending her had told she was headed for Kurdistan - a safe place, he told her, on the border with Iraq.

Somewhere she could find a good job and make good money, much better than the money she had made a few years ago in Jordan.

But instead, Darmianti was flown to the Middle East, put in a taxi and driven five hours down to Arbil in northern Iraq.

'Very afraid'

When she found out where she was, she said, she felt completely deceived.

"I wanted to go home that day," she said. "I was very afraid, especially when we heard the booming sounds outside. We'd all be crying in our rooms."

The government usually has a reactive response - they know about these things after there are victims and that's what we think should be changed
Nur Harsono

Darmianti said that dozens of Indonesians had been sent to Iraq as migrant workers by the same agency.

One of them told Darmianti she had seen her employer shot in the head by a stray bullet as they walked along the street.

And living conditions were terrible.

"Sometimes we didn't have water or food," she said. "Sometimes we would steal in order to get food. I felt like crying all the time."

Darmianti said the agency she worked for refused her permission to leave Iraq unless she paid US$2,500 (1,250).

But after three months in Arbil, she escaped with the help of an international aid organisation and has now brought her former agent to court in Jakarta.

'Reactive response'

It is the first time Indonesia has tried anyone on a charge of sending migrant workers to Iraq unwittingly.

Nur Harsono at Migrant Care in Jakarta
Nur Harsono says the government must do more to tackle the problem

But Nur Harsono, from the organisation Migrant Care in Jakarta, says he has regularly presented the police with dossiers of similar cases and that there needs to be a change of attitude among officials here.

The problem, he says, is that migrant workers are often leased out to other agencies in different parts of the world, and obtain visas to third countries while out of Indonesia.

And that means the government is not keeping track of where Indonesian migrants are being sent, and by whom.

"The government usually has a reactive response," he said. "They know about these things after there are victims and that's what we think should be changed.

"It's happened before that women who have visas to work in Dubai, or Abu Dhabi, then transfer to Iraq. And the government continues to do nothing."

Print Sponsor

Indonesia: Muslim bridge-builder?
28 Feb 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Indonesia
15 Sep 05 |  Country profiles


Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific