Kandara Bridge is a flyover along the King Fahd (Sitteen) Road in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. However apart from bustling cars going their ways around the city, the bridge is more notoriously known as “shantytown.” If you look below the flyover you will find hundreds, if not thousands, of people wandering around and are doing nothing but waiting. They are foreigners with illegal status. Some of them are illegal overstayers for violating their Haj visas, but most of them are foreign labors who run away from their employers.
It is not surprising to meet many Indonesian citizens here. Lack of work skills and protection from the Consulate make them prone to exploitation. The workers, mostly female domestic helpers, would run to the bridge after escaping from harsh treatment by their employers. Some have slept there for as long as 7 months while awaiting their fate. Often without passports and any other legal document, the immigration officials could come by anytime and take them to jail. They will face deportation, if they’re lucky. However the Saudi immigration officials often would not let them go without severe punishments for violating the immigration regulations. Food may be possible to seek, but medical assistance is another story. A female worker, suffering from breast cancer, had been lying just like that on the street for 7 months before being picked up by the consulate and taken to the hospital. And that was only after the Indonesian television crew found out about her.
This is an irony since we have the Indonesian Consulate there in Jeddah; a place where a citizen could go and seek help. However even the Consulate is now part of the problem. They do have shelters for the citizen, but the facility is overwhelmingly full. The consulate officials, knowing that some of the workers escape with money at their hands, would even ask for an outrageous amount of “administration fee.” Realizing that the consulate is not a safe haven, those poor workers have no choice but to go back to Kandara Bridge.
It is truly a sign of ignorance from the government who is supposed to protect our citizens abroad.