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.
Mina S., an Indonesian domestic worker travelled to Saudi Arabia for work. She was forced to work long hours without pay and was beaten by her employer. Mina was locked in the house and had to escape through a ventilation hole in the bathroom.
If I tell my whole story it will not be finished even in a day and a night. When I return home, I will maybe bring nothing…. From 12 midnight to 2:30 a.m. my employer beat me with an electric cable. In the end, she said, "Other madams [employers] would send you home but I won't. You have only two choices: either you work without a salary, or you will die here. If you die, I will tell the police that you committed suicide."
Even if I worked without a salary, it did not guarantee that I would not be beaten. That is why I escaped. All the doors were locked so there was no way out, the windows had iron bars, but there was a hole for ventilation in the bathroom from which I escaped. Before I escaped, I prayed and asked Allah for help although my body was very dirty since she did not allow me to take a bath for a month. I prayed.
I had to ask permission for offering my prayer, to pee, to go to the bathroom.
My employer would ask me, “What time did you wake up?” If I told her the truth, I was wrong and if I didn’t tell the truth I was also wrong. If I did some work she would ask, “Why did you do that without my knowledge, do you think that you are the owner of this house?” If I did not do anything, she would say that I don’t have a brain. What should I do then?
My employer was mean. At first she gave me food but later on she did not give me any food, and once I was not given food for two days so I only drank tap water. Once I was very hungry so at 2 a.m. I took the rubbish and ate it, sneakingly, and I had to watch whether she saw me or not, because otherwise she would whip me with an electric cable.
I want to go home. To go home, they said I have to drop the charges [against my employer]. I have been sitting here for eight months already. I have been sitting here, with no money and no job. If I return back home, my body has been beaten, I am without money, that is what makes me sad.... If it is my luck, it will be [my employers will get punished and I will get compensation]. Otherwise, I will accept my fate. I told my husband already and he said to let Allah punish my employer.
Credit to Human Rights Watch
Original Narrative in “As If I Am Not Human”: Abuses Against Asian Domestic Workers in Saudi Arabia