Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April 2014, 13:11 GMT

U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - Saudi Arabia

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 12 June 2007
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - Saudi Arabia, 12 June 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/467be3d5c.html [accessed 19 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Saudi Arabia (Tier 3)

Saudi Arabia is a destination country for men and women trafficked for the purposes of involuntary servitude and, to a lesser extent, commercial sexual exploitation. Men and women from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Kenya, and Ethiopia voluntarily travel to Saudi Arabia as domestic servants or other low-skilled laborers, but subsequently face conditions of involuntary servitude, including withholding of passports and other restrictions on movement, non-payment of wages, threats, and physical or sexual abuse. Women from Yemen, Morocco, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Tajikistan were also trafficked into Saudi Arabia for commercial sexual exploitation; others were reportedly kidnapped and forced into prostitution after running away from abusive employers. In addition, Saudi Arabia is a destination country for Nigerian, Yemeni, Pakistani, Afghan, Chadian, and Sudanese children trafficked for involuntary servitude as forced beggars and as street vendors.

The Government of Saudi Arabia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. Saudi Arabia is placed on Tier 3 for a third consecutive year. The government failed to enact a comprehensive criminal anti-trafficking law, and, despite evidence of widespread trafficking abuses, did not significantly increase the number of prosecutions of these crimes committed against foreign domestic workers. The government similarly did not take law enforcement action against trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation in Saudi Arabia, or take any steps to provide victims of sex trafficking with protection. Saudi Arabia also continues to lack a victim identification procedure to identify and refer victims to protective services.

Saudi Arabia should enact a comprehensive anti-trafficking law that criminalizes all forms of trafficking in persons and assigns penalties that are sufficiently stringent to deter the crime and adequately reflect the heinous nature of the crime. The government should also significantly increase criminal prosecutions of abusive employers, enforce existing criminal laws that punish employers who abuse foreign workers, and impose appropriate sentences for such crimes. In addition, the government should take steps to ensure that trafficking victims are not detained or punished, and should institute a formal victim identification mechanism to distinguish trafficking victims from among the thousands of workers it deports each year for immigration violations and other crimes. Saudi Arabia should similarly extend protection to victims of sex trafficking, and ensure that their traffickers are criminally prosecuted.

Prosecution

Saudi Arabia demonstrated insufficient efforts to punish trafficking crimes over the last year. The government does not prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons, but penalizes forced labor through Articles 229-242 of its Labor Law. Penalties for forced labor, however, are limited to fines or bans on future hiring, and as such, are not sufficiently stringent to deter the crime. Saudi Arabia does not have a law specifically prohibiting trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation. This year, the government reported no criminal investigations, prosecutions, convictions or sentences for trafficking offenses, despite reports of widespread abuse of foreign workers and anecdotal evidence of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation. Saudi law states that employers may not retain the passports of their employees, but the government does not actively enforce this law. Source country embassies also report that the government does not seriously enforce fines or bans on hiring workers imposed upon abusive employers or recruitment agencies. Furthermore, police are often criticized for being unresponsive to requests for help from foreign workers. In December, the Government of Saudi Arabia funded an assessment by anti-trafficking experts for forthcoming law enforcement training session in the Kingdom. The government should take significant steps to criminally punish trafficking for involuntary servitude and commercial sexual exploitation. In particular, the government should ensure that traffickers receive adequate prison sentences for serious abuses rather than administrative penalties such as fines, bans on future recruitment, or orders to pay back-wages.

Protection

Saudi Arabia did not take adequate measures to protect victims of trafficking over the last year. However, the government does provide trafficking victims with shelter, access to legal, medical, and psychological services, and temporary residency, in some cases. Although the government operates three shelters for abused domestic workers and trafficked children, some victims report being further mistreated in these "remand homes." For instance, in November 2006, 25 Nepalese victims who ran away from their employers claiming physical and sexual abuse were confined to a room, given insufficient food and medical treatment, and were not allowed to contact their families. Some victims also claim difficulty receiving consular access, accessing national and international NGO assistance, or receiving legal or social counseling in their own language.

In addition, Saudi Arabia does not systematically attempt to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable people, such as foreign women detained for running away from their employers or women arrested for prostitution; as a result, victims of trafficking are often punished and deported without being offered protection. Saudi Arabia offers some victims limited legal alternatives to removal to countries in which they may face hardship or retribution. Additionally, the process for victims to make complaints is difficult for many poorly educated and vulnerable workers to use. Saudi officials also do not encourage victims to assist in investigations against their traffickers; often, victims are persuaded by the police to take monetary compensation in lieu of filing criminal charges against their employer, even in cases of extreme abuse. In some cases, victims are reportedly returned to their employers by police officers after making a complaint.

Saudi Arabia continued to work with UNICEF and the Government of Yemen to repatriate Yemeni children trafficked into the Kingdom. Once found, the child victim is brought to a shelter, given counseling and medical care, and repatriated. The government reports that it contributed funding to shelters in Yemen for children trafficked to Saudi Arabia for forced begging. Though the government does not provide medical assistance to victims detained in deportation centers, foreign workers are allowed access to public hospitals.

The Government of Saudi Arabia should institute a formal victim identification mechanism to identify and refer victims to protection services. The government should also ensure that victims are not mistreated in government shelters, and are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, such as absconding from their sponsors or prostitution. Furthermore, the government should provide protection services to victims of sex trafficking.

Prevention

This year, Saudi Arabia made minimal efforts to prevent trafficking in persons. Though the government published brochures explaining workers' rights and available resources, neither the Saudi government nor source-country embassies distributed these efficiently to incoming workers. The government provides trafficking awareness and technical training for officials with trafficking prevention responsibilities. Saudi Arabia took steps to prevent trafficking by imposing fines and blacklisting some agents found to be misusing visas for the Hajj and Umrah to traffic women and children into the country. Saudi Arabia has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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