There are an estimated 61,000 people living in modern slavery in Saudi Arabia (GSI 2018). It is a source and destination country for men and women trafficked from South and South East Asia and Africa. People voluntarily migrate to the country to work in a variety of sectors including construction and domestic service; many of these workers are vulnerable to forced labour. Traffickers and brokers often illegally recruit migrants to work in Saudi Arabia and subsequently forced them into domestic servitude or debt bondage. Female domestic workers are particularly at risk of trafficking due to their isolation inside private residences. Non-payment or late payment of wages remains a complaint from foreign workers, while employer's withholding of worker's passports remains a significant problem. Trafficking perpetrators include businesses of all sizes, private families, recruitment companies in both Saudi Arabia and labor-sending countries and organized criminal elements.
Haima G. travelled to Saudi Arabia for work to help her family. Relatives deceived Haima G. about her promised job abroad. Her agent sexually harassed her, and her employer threatened to return her to her abusive agent if she complained. Her employer sexually assaulted her, retained her passport, and locked her in the workplace so that she could not escape.
I am 17 years old, from Mindanao. I have finished three years of high school. I was 15 when I left. I wanted to help my family. My cousins fooled me into coming here, my parents thought I’d be with them, but actually they were far away…. They really fooled me, if I had known what Saudi Arabia is like, I wouldn’t have come, not even if they gave me millions [eyes filling with tears]. My father didn’t ask my permission, I had to go. I thought I would babysit children and go to school at the same time. I did not know I would be a full-time maid, cleaning. I didn’t even know my wages.
They took me to an agency [in Saudi Arabia] where they trick people. I stayed in the agency for one week. I had to work in five houses in one week. One day the agent said he would take me to his sibling’s house. He was the only one there. He started holding me, kissing me. He said he would marry me, that he would call my family, and give me money. He asked how old I am. I said, “I am 24.” He said, “I know you are not 24.” He was kissing me. I was crying, “don’t do this to me, I am Muslim.”
When we went back to the agency, my true employer, the one I would be sold to, was there. I didn’t want to go back to the agency because he touched me all over and kissed me and I thought maybe he would rape me. The true employer got me and brought me to the house. He said, “Be good so I don’t send you back [to the agency].”
After a while, the employer started showing some affection for me. He called me into his bedroom. He said, “I want to tell you how I got you from the agency.” He said, “I bought you for 10,000 riyals.” That is when I found out I had been sold….
He said, “I will do something to you, but don’t tell anyone.” He injected me with something, but I don’t know what it was. He said, “If you don’t want to go back to the agency, you better stay here.” I felt dizzy and feverish after the injection. He really threatened me, “Don’t tell madam.”
[gets quiet] I felt there was no hope. The employer raped me. The lady employer was noticing something about me, that I was exhausted. The employer raped me many times. Not in my bedroom, because I locked the door, but around the house.
[crying] I thought, I can’t take it anymore, I stayed in my bedroom for two days, I had a phone in my room because they are rich, and they called me. I told everything to madam. Madam also cried. Madam said, “We can’t do anything about it, I know he’s really bad, every time that he is drunk, he does bad things.”
I said, “I want to go to the Philippines.” The whole family, madam, the employer, they didn’t want me to go. They locked the doors and the gates. One night, still in February, there was a party. I thought, now I can escape, and I prayed and prayed I saw that the gate was unlocked… [and escaped to the embassy.]
I went to the [police] station with an embassy official. After that, they brought the employer to Suleimaniya, he was put in prison. They brought me to the SSWA [a shelter run by the Ministry of Social Affairs]. I was there for one month. After four days in the SSWA, the employer who was in prison came to the SSWA and we had another interview. He asked how much money I wanted [for an out of court settlement]. I said, “I don’t want money, I want him to suffer and go to jail.”
I don’t want to go home feeling empty like the others, without bringing money, even just one riyal. I cry, how long will I have to wait here in the embassy? I have been here nine months.
One day, they told me the case was unsuccessful [and I will be sent to deportation to return home.]
I was treated really badly. It is as if I don’t have a family and I am not a human being.
Narrative as told to Human Rights Watch for their report “As If I Am Not Human”:Abuses against Asian Domestic Workers in Saudi Arabia.
All credit given.