JAKARTA: Life was good for Indonesian Muhammad Kurdi who has lived in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for about 15 years.
The father of three used to work as a information for pilgrims from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, incomes as much as 200 million rupiah a month ($14,042) through the Islamic pilgrimage peak season.
However, life turned the other way up when COVID-19 hit the globe and foreigners couldn’t go on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.
“Since the pandemic, I have been jobless, and perhaps all guides in Mecca are like this, unemployed because there are no more pilgrims for Umrah and Haj.
“So, we in Mecca have not been working for over a year,” Mr Kurdi informed CNA.
Nowadays, the 36-year-old does every kind of jobs such as driving individuals to vaccination centres or out of city and even being a YouTuber by producing movies of life in Mecca.
He additionally has financial savings in Indonesia and has requested his household to switch him his cash each time wanted.
Occasionally, Mr Kurdi receives aid from fellow Indonesians as nicely as staple meals twice from the Indonesian consulate basic.
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Despite all of the efforts, he claimed it isn’t sufficient to make ends meet.
“Thank God we have savings in Indonesia…but it’s been difficult the past two years. It’s impossible to take from my savings forever. Of course, if you don’t work it will run out.
“If it continues like this, of course, we won’t be able to handle it,” added Mr Kurdi.
The pandemic has not only impacted guides in the holy city of Mecca but also workers in other cities such as Jeddah and Madinah.
Indonesia’s Consul General in Jeddah, Eko Hartono estimates there are about 300,000 legally documented Indonesian workers in Saudi Arabia.
About 168,000 of them are in Jeddah and nearby areas, and it is believed the number of undocumented workers is even three times higher, Mr Hartono told CNA.
Their future in the Kingdom looks dim.
BECOMING A HEALING PRACTITIONER
Jeddah-based Mr Basuni Hasan used to accompany ministers and other officials from Indonesia for their pilgrimage but that is now all history.
Having worked in Saudi Arabia since 1993 and in particular as a pilgrimage guide for about two decades, he is now forced to switch jobs.
“During the lockdown, I had no income at all for about six months,” stated Mr Basuni.
He defined that he needed to ask his household in Madura, East Java to ship him his cash from his financial savings to survive.
“Because I have a family, I have nine children. Some of them are in Madura, some are in Saudi Arabia. That’s the problem.
“There is always someone who gives me food, rice, to eat. But I can’t send anything to my family. I was even helped by Arabs.”
When the restrictions to curb COVID-19 began to ease, Mr Hasan determined to attempt his luck as a therapeutic practitioner.
He claimed he has lengthy had talents to heal sure illnesses brought on by ‘non secular disturbances’; talents which he thinks can assist him present such remedy to these in want.
Nevertheless, Mr Hasan nonetheless believes that his future in Jeddah stays unclear.
Like many different Indonesian workers in the same scenario like him, the 48-year-old, now plans to return dwelling as soon as his work allow expires in about 16 months.
ILLEGAL WORKERS MOST VULNERABLE
The Indonesian consul basic acknowledges there are a lot of Indonesians in Saudi Arabia who’re struggling as a results of COVID-19.
“In general, our migrant workers are fairly heavily impacted by COVID-19.
“There has been no Haj twice and the Umrah has also been very limited,” said Mr Hartono.
Besides Indonesians working as guides, Mr Hartono stated that those that work in sectors associated to the pilgrimage enterprise such as in the resort, restaurant and memento retailers are additionally affected.
Moreover, since Saudi Arabia launched Saudi Vision 2030 a number of years in the past, which goals to diversify its home financial system by offering employment to its residents, work alternatives for foreigners have additionally turn into scarce.
“This has made the lives of our migrant workers recently difficult,” stated Mr Hartono.
As a consequence, many Indonesians have determined to return dwelling for good or to attend somewhat bit longer and see how the scenario would evolve, he added.
Those who’re staying and in want of assist can search help from the Indonesian authorities in the type of staple meals or direct money, if vital.
Mr Hartono stated that the Consulate General in Jeddah has distributed about 5,000 packages of assist that covers about 15,000 individuals.
It is estimated there are about 20,000 Indonesians who’re in want of some assist as a result of their present troublesome circumstances.
“We select them (the recipients) thoroughly. They must be Indonesians who are in need because we cannot help them all,” stated Mr Hartono including that unlawful workers are additionally helped.
“It is precisely those who are illegal who are more vulnerable than those who are legal. Legal workers usually have a permanent job, their salary is also better. If they are illegal, they have odd jobs, the salary is definitely lower, they can be fired arbitrarily…”
The authorities has to date offered its help in three phases, stated the consul basic who oversees the affairs of Indonesian workers in areas such as Mecca, Jeddah, Madinah, Tabouk and Asir.
DON’T COUNT ON HAJ: CONSUL GENERAL
Indonesian non-governmental and neighborhood organisations additionally chip in to assist the federal government in finding migrant workers who want help and in getting the unlawful ones to be correctly documented.
Mr Suib Darwanto, head of the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union (SBMI) in Jeddah stated that they work along with the federal government to distribute the help.
“SBMI has also assisted Indonesian migrant workers during the pandemic such as providing food and medicine,” he stated.
Another neighborhood organisation, Rise of Indonesian Migrants Solidarity Trust (BMISA) supplies assist in elevating donations from fellow Indonesians who’re doing nicely in Saudi Arabia stated its secretary Karyadi.
It was believed that among the troublesome challenges going through Indonesian workers might be alleviated if the Haj resumes this yr.
The Saudi authorities has, nevertheless, announced that this year’s Haj will again be restricted to its residents and residents of the nation, with a most of 60,000 pilgrims solely.
This would be the second yr in a row that international pilgrims usually are not allowed to carry out the Haj as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.
Consul General Hartono believed that Indonesian migrant workers mustn’t depend on the Haj to assist them with their monetary scenario.
He identified that workers who need to work overseas ought to be sure that they’re outfitted with the fitting expertise and have the mandatory authorized paperwork.
Meanwhile, for Mr Muhammad Kurdi, the information turned YouTuber, he has determined to stay in Saudi Arabia a minimum of till his work allow expires about seven months’ time.
He could take into account going again to Indonesia afterwards, however doubts nonetheless linger in him as to what the long run holds for migrant workers again dwelling.
“That’s why some decide to stay here because they’re uncertain…” added Mr Kurdi.
Read this story in Bahasa Indonesia here.