Last Updated: Friday, 27 November 2015, 12:04 GMT

U.S. Department of State 2003 Trafficking in Persons Report - Saudi Arabia

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 11 June 2003
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2003 Trafficking in Persons Report - Saudi Arabia, 11 June 2003, available at: [accessed 29 November 2015]
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 2)

Saudi Arabia is a destination country for trafficked persons. Victims come primarily from the Philippines, Bangladesh, Sudan, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka to work as domestic servants and menial laborers. Some persons who come to Saudi Arabia in search of work are forced into situations of coerced labor or slave-like conditions, and in some of those cases they also suffer extreme working conditions and physical abuse. Some female domestic servants work in conditions of forced labor, and in some cases those trafficking victims are also physically and sexually abused. Many low-skilled foreign workers have their passports withheld, contracts altered, and suffer non-payment of salaries of varying degrees and durations.

The Government of Saudi Arabia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government's strengths in combating trafficking are in the areas of prevention and protection. The government is taking steps to increase the enforcement of trafficking by revising its visa system.


The Ministries of Labor and Interior work closely with their counterparts from the Philippines and Sri Lanka on foreign labor issues. Various ministries have supported public awareness campaigns advising abused domestic workers to seek refuge in government-sponsored shelters, and brochures are distributed to domestic servants in their own languages upon arrival, advising them on how to report abuse. Foreign workers must now use licensed agencies in the Kingdom and nationally licensed recruitment agencies in the source country. The Saudi Arabia National Recruitment Committee instituted a unified labor contract for foreign workers clarifying requirements and expectations of recruitment agencies and workers. The government is funding an awareness-training program in Sri Lanka for women seeking work in Saudi Arabia as domestics where they receive information on their rights and useful telephone numbers. A senior religious figure has warned Saudis against abusing their foreign workers, reminding them that Islam does not permit the oppression of workers regardless of their religion.


The Government of Saudi Arabia outlawed slavery in 1962. Islamic law prohibits sexual relationships outside the context of marriage and provides for strict penalties if the law is breached. Law enforcement investigates cases of large-scale mistreatment of workers and allegations of abuse. Some abusive household employers have been arrested. Although domestics are exempt from the labor law, the Social Welfare Office works as a mediator between employee and sponsor. Arbitration runs in favor of foreign workers up to 90% of the time. As part of the standard curriculum for all officers, police academies include a class on labor regulations, including how to handle cases of abused foreign workers. The government has shifted worker visa issuance authority to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs to rein in the practice by which Saudi sponsors request more visas than needed and sell them to middlemen. The police worked together with law enforcement from Morocco to break up a Moroccan trafficking ring consisting of 40 family members. There are no indications of government involvement or complicity in trafficking.


The Government of Saudi Arabia operates three shelters, called Welfare Camps, in the largest cities for abused or trafficked female foreign workers. Police bring runaway domestics to the shelters. Women stay there, receiving food and medical care, while law enforcement investigates their cases. Foreign embassies have access to their citizens. These shelters have resulted in foreign embassies no longer needing to harbor domestics on their compounds.

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