Elfrida Julia Bani, a domestic worker from Waitabula, Nusa Tenggara Timur, Indonesia, finally got her passport back on 27 October, after months of requesting for it to be returned and 26 days of desperate plea with the Ministry of Manpower.
Elfrida had requested to go home to her hometown since August when his grandfather passed away and was denied. However, when her brother was critically 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.
MOM claimed to be keeping Elfrida’s passport because she is one of the witnesses in a case that MOM is investigating.
When confronted with repeated requests from Elfrida, her employer and even the Indonesian government, the MOM officer in charge of the case had delayed the return of her passport under various excuses, such as his superior not giving the go-ahead, the judge had to decide and citing that the Attorney-General Chambers had the say, without giving a legitimate reason for withholding her passport from her.
After Elfrida posted her situation on her Facebook and TOC’s article on 26 October, she got her passport back the next day from MOM after it called her for a meeting.
Elfrida has since returned home and posted her thoughts on the experience that she had.
Elfrida complained that some authorities had asked her to delete her status about the detaining. She refused to do so, saying:
“Where were you when I asked you for help? How could you be so heartless? Your job is to help people like me, however you chose to ignore me? Now that I found my own way out then you realise? If only you helped me since the very beginning then I would not post the issue on social media.”
“It is all your fault. You want to keep your track record clean, but you do not work well. You think that all domestic workers are stupid. Remember not to treat domestic workers the way you did,” she added.
Posting a picture of her, kneeling next to her brother’s graveyard, she wrote, “If only you (MOM) did not detain my passport and sent me home earlier then maybe I won’t be here staring only at my brother’s graveyard. It is too late for me to be here. Then after all that I had been going through, you (MOM) still had a heart to say ‘You can go home and see your brother now. Here is your passport.’ But I am here only to see his graveyard. Not my brother. How could you (MOM) so heartless?”
Elfrida also made another post saying that she will return Singapore to work for her employer.
In her post, she mentioned that She said that MOM had promised to pay her $100-$200 a day for being a witness when she received her passport back from the ministry.
She was even ridiculed by the translator for being stupid for not taking up the offer as it is way higher than what she would have gotten, working as a domestic worker.
She wrote that she would get $3,000-$6,000 a month only to stay in the country and asked, “Who would not want to get such amount of money without having to work hard?”
Elfrida wrote on her Facebook page that she is thankful for the support everyone has given her. She said that she has got the passport from MOM without any trouble. She wrote, “I know I am innocent. And to those who said that I am guilty of any wrongdoing then now i can prove that I am not (guilty).”
MOM has also not replied to TOC’s enquiry about the 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, a much questionable one.
TOC has written to MOM for their response regarding the domestic worker’s claim.
Due to the new law in place, TOC has omitted information that would link back to the case on hand.