Indonesian and Hong Kong government officials have moved to address the imprisonment and exploitation of Hong Kong-bound Indonesian domestic workers at recruitment agencies. The moves come after a Sunday Morning Post report last month highlighted the problem. In Hong Kong last week to discuss the issue, Laode Ida, deputy speaker of Indonesia's House of Regional Representatives, said: 'We were aware of the article on Indonesian domestic workers, and we are going to change policies to make a better situation for the placement and protection of Indonesian domestic workers.' The report described Hong Kong-bound Indonesian domestic workers held in prison-like conditions at recruitment agencies in Indonesia - often locked away from the outside world for months or even years - as they are trained and taught Cantonese in preparation for jobs in the city. 'To some extent, this can be called slavery,' Laode said. 'This is a very controversial issue. As a Muslim country, we are not allowed to let our people suffer under slavery, but on the other hand, poverty is still trapping Indonesian people.' Laode said the export of labour was a major source of income for Indonesia, a nation struggling with poverty and unemployment. Indonesian domestic workers in Hong Kong have sent more than HK$26 billion back to East Java alone and represent a major part of the Indonesian economy. During last week's visit, Laode met Labour commissioner Cherry Tse Ling Kit-ching to discuss how to improve what Laode described as a very serious situation. The two discussed how to better regulate agencies, but focused mainly on the excessive placement fees paid to recruitment and employment agencies. Laode said the Indonesian government was working to overhaul Indonesian labour law governing recruitment agencies to put an end to the imprisonment. Legislation was on the agenda for later this year. But he doesn't believe legislation will solve the issue of recruitment agencies. 'The government can supervise and monitor the agencies, but there is sometimes a conspiracy between officials from the Indonesian ministry of Manpower and Transmigration and the recruitment agencies,' Laode said. 'This is already is already known by parliamentarians like us. The Manpower Department and recruitment agencies disregard the suggestions of Parliament and activists.' Roostiawati, the Indonesian Manpower and Transmigration Department's director for the placement and protection of migrant workers, said earlier that the imprisonment of Indonesian domestic workers was for their own safety. Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong went to Indonesia last week to discuss the issues with Roostiawati and other officials from Indonesia's manpower department. 'Mr Lee expressed concern about the reports of the alleged malpractices of recruitment agencies in Indonesia. The Indonesian officials agreed to look into the matter,' a Security Bureau spokesman said. 'We are aware of the reports of alleged malpractices of the employment agencies in Indonesia against the Indonesian domestic helpers before they start working in Hong Kong. Hong Kong's labour laws, like other domestic laws, do not have extra-territorial jurisdiction and thus cannot regulate malpractices of employment agencies in other countries.' While Hong Kong may not be able to affect Indonesian law and enforcement, Hong Kong's migrant worker groups say the city can live by example and show Indonesia that mistreating domestic workers is unacceptable. 'I think if the Hong Kong government really cares about the violation of the domestic workers' rights, if Hong Kong feels that a minimum wage is important to protect them, that would show stakeholders that they can't mistreat domestic workers and show recruitment agencies that they shouldn't imprison domestic workers and take salaries from them,' Lily Purba, from the Hong Kong-based Asian Migrant Centre, said. She confirmed that Indonesia was planning legislation to address the agencies' abuses. 'It's already on the legislative agenda for this year. Reports like this show our government that we need to review the system.'