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.
Sandra C. travelled to Saudi Arabia from the Philippines for work through a recruiter. She was forced to work long hours with no days off. She was only paid for five months despite working for her employer for three years. When Sandra asked to return to the Philippines, her employer threatened to put her in jail and refused to give her an exit visa or her passport.
A recruiter came to my village. The recruiter said that when I came here I would [forfeit] … a total of six months pay for recruitment fees.
My employer told me, ‘If you want to go, go! But, I won’t give you a ticket to go to the Philippines, I will send you to another country.’ It has been three years and I want to go home.
My husband died because of kidney problems. There was no communication and I didn’t know.
My problem when I came here is that my employers didn’t give me 750 riyals salary [per month], they gave only 600. After six months, they still didn’t give me my salary. I only got five months salary out of three years.
[my employer threatened he] would put me in jail when I asked for my ticket [back to the Philippines].
There was no day off. My employer said, ‘If you want a day off, go to the Philippines.
The embassy staff wants to go [to] the house of the employer with a case officer. They owe me 34,000 riyals [$8,840]. Now I want to work for payment so I earn the 500 riyals [$130] for deportation. My mother and father need money, they need me to go home, but my employer didn’t want me to leave…. The embassy tells me that if my employers don’t want to give me my salary, I will have to work one month to earn the deportation fees.
When the embassy staff called my employer, he said, “If she wants to go to the Philippines, she can go to the deportation center.” They won’t give me an exit visa, my passport, or my salary. The embassy staff always calls my employers, but they don’t answer. They don’t want to come here, because maybe they are afraid.
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.