Elfrida Julia Bani, a domestic worker from Waitabula, Nusa Tenggara Timur, Indonesia lost her brother in a factory fire on September and desperately wanted to go back to her hometown to attend his funeral.
However, she was unable to make it home to see her brother for the last time as the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) detained her passport and denied her repeated request to go home, even if just a few days to see her beloved brother.
Elfrida had earlier requested to go back to Indonesia for her grandfather’s funeral in August this year and was denied. When her brother was critical injured in the factory fire on 30 September, she again put up a request to go back home, but was again denied. When the news of the passing of her brother, she desperately asked her employer to ask MOM to return her passport to her, even if she can only go back for a few days.
She had since contacted Indonesia’s Government and Indonesia’s embassy. She also said that she had written to her agent, NTT Regent, and the Ministry of Manpower Indonesia. Despite having to provide letters from the hospital and the Certificate of Death just as MOM asked her to do so, her passport has still not been returned.
When confronted with repeated requests from Elfrida, her employer and now even the Indonesian government, the MOM officer in charge of the case has delayed the return of her passport under various excuses, such as his superior not giving the go-ahead, the judge has to decide and now citing that the Attorney-General Chambers has the say, without giving a legitimate reason for witholding her passport from her. (Remember that Elfrida is not an accused of any offence)
Elfrida said that she had rarely seen his brother and they were orphans. She had wanted to see him for the very last time. Therefore, she had asked her family to postpone the funeral again and again so that she will be able to come home to see her brother for the last time.
However, since MOM has not given any update on her case after 26 days of waiting, Elfrida has finally gave up hope and allowed her brother to be buried. She said that there was nothing she could do but to send her family some money to help with the financial burden.
“I do not have any idea why the Government held my documents. I’m not a criminal. I’m a victim. I felt like i have been treated unfairly. Moreover, my family is in grief,” she said.
According to her employer, Elfrida has not had a good sleep and ate much over the past weeks. She too have went through several mental breakdowns — crying and screaming — to a point of having to call police down to the house.
MOM claims to be keeping Elfrida’s passport because she is one of the witness in a case that MOM is investigating. However, TOC understands that a couple of MOM’s key witnesses in the case have been given permission to go back to their home country for a break while Elfrida has been denied her request to return home ever since the case was commenced by MOM.
MOM has not stated any legal rationale for withholding Elfrida’s passport as she is not one of the accused in the MOM’s case and the case will only be heard next year due to the lack of court vacancies. Making MOM’s decision to deny Elfrida’s request to go back home, very much questionable.
When the employer wanted to terminate Elfrida’s employment with him, so that MOM can take up the case with her directly. The MOM officer made further promises that he would look into the matter with no guarantees.
Elfrida has not been able to seek help from the local NGOs on her issue as they have been told by the MOM officer-in-charge of her case that her employer has committed a terrible offense.
In the end, Elfrida wrote on her post that she hopes that this thing will never happen to any domestic worker. “I hope that Indonesia’s Government can to take strict action to defend its citizens who work in a foreign country,” she added.
TOC has written to MOM on this matter and will include their response if they reply.
Update: The domestic worker has just gotten her passport back from Ministry of Manpower on 27 October.