A sunset in Riyadh: a maid returned to Jakarta recently after working in Saudi Arabia for 22 years, allegedly without being paid. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A 40-year-old Indonesian woman who took up work as a domestic employee in Saudi Arabia in 1995 has allegedly just received her first salary after the Indonesian embassy located her workplace – and sent her home.

Sukmi bint Sardi Umar went to the Middle Eastern country when she was 18, Indonesian news outlet Kompas reported. But she had been forbidden by her employer since that time to contact the outside world. She was reportedly not paid for 22 years.

As her family could not reach her, they sought help from the state-run Center for Manpower Domestic Worker Protection and Placement Service (BP3TKI) in Indonesia, which contacted the Indonesian embassy in Riyadh to try to find the lost woman.

The maid was located and put on a flight back to Jakarta, returning to Soekarno-Hatta Airport on July 15. However, the circumstances of how she was found and what happened to her has yet to be disclosed.

After negotiations with the Indonesian government, the maid’s employer agreed to pay Umar US$44,000 in a lump sum, or $166 per month.

According to a previous report, the minimum wage for the 1.5 million Asian and African domestic workers in Saudi Arabia is set at around US$160 to $213 per month. However, Filipino maids – there are about 180,000 in the country – can get $400 a month after the Philippine and Saudi Arabian government negotiated a deal for better pay. 

The reason why Umar continued to work for her employer for 22 years without payment remains unclear, due to her suffering depression and being unable to talk at the moment.

In April 2015, authorities in Saudi Arabia executed two Indonesian maids who were found guilty of murder. The Indonesian government then banned domestic workers from working in 21 Middle East countries, including Saudi Arabia.

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