Last Updated: Friday, 19 December 2014, 13:25 GMT

U.S. Department of State 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report - Saudi Arabia

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 14 June 2004
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report - Saudi Arabia, 14 June 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4680d81c23.html [accessed 22 December 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 2)

Saudi Arabia is a destination country for men, women, and children trafficked from South and East Asia and Eastern Africa for labor exploitation and from South Asia and Africa for forced begging. Victims come primarily from Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh to work as domestic servants and menial laborers; a small percentage is forced into situations of coerced labor or slave-like conditions. Despite the fact that it is against Saudi law, some low-skilled foreign workers have their passports withheld, contracts altered, and suffer non-payment of salaries of varying degrees and duration. Some South Asian and African children are trafficked to Saudi Arabia during pilgrimages; they end up in forced begging rings. Over 200 Afghan children were repatriated from Saudi Arabia in early 2004. Nigerian immigration authorities report receiving a number of trafficking victims returned from Saudi Arabia in 2003.

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. A lack of accessible data on trafficking-related cases and prosecutions prevents a complete and accurate assessment of the trafficking situation in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Government should consider adopting comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation that would include foreign domestics. Mediation efforts should be limited to civil and labor complaints; Saudi authorities should send more cases of trafficking and abuse through the criminal justice system. Saudi Arabia should also take additional steps to prevent and investigate the trafficking of children for forced begging.

Prosecution

Saudi law enforcement efforts remained difficult to gauge, as the government does not collect statistics on the number of convictions or prosecutions, though some trafficking and abuse convictions and sentences were announced in the media. Saudi Arabia does not have an anti-trafficking law, though most forms of trafficking are criminalized under disparate existing statutes. Domestic laborers are excluded from protection under Saudi Arabia's labor law. The vast majority of cases involving trafficking or abuse against foreign domestics – including complaints of a criminal nature – are settled out of court by mediation and cash settlements. An amended labor law is currently under review with the Majlies Ash-Shoura (Consultative Council). The government provides training for police officers to recognize and handle cases of foreign worker abuse. During the last year, the Saudi Government held bilateral discussions with governments of source countries in an effort to improve monitoring of potential trafficking situations involving foreign domestic workers in the Kingdom. In early 2004, Saudi authorities disrupted a cross-border (Yemen-Saudi Arabia) child-smuggling ring and arrested a man on charges of smuggling foreign maids into Jeddah for work in a brothel. This is the first reported case of trafficking for sexual exploitation in the Kingdom.

Protection

The Saudi Government operates shelters called Welfare Camps in the three largest cities for abused female foreign workers, including some trafficking victims. Trafficking victims face disincentives to seeking the prosecution of their employer or trafficking; they must first file a police report before going to the government shelters if they are a party to a criminal complaint. In Dammam, the Eastern Province authorities established a Social Welfare Office for foreign workers with complaints. The office serves as a mediator between domestic servants and their employers. The police refer runaway domestic servants to the Social Welfare Office and then a mediation process begins. Few victims of trafficking receive encouragement to initiate criminal prosecutions of their Saudi employers. Most disputes with employers, including some com-plaints of a criminal nature, are steered toward the mediation mechanisms; 90% of the cases subjected to mediation are resolved through a settlement that usually involves the employer pro-viding monetary compensation to the employee. The government works with several Islamic charities to provide long-term care for abandoned children, including those that have been trafficked for forced begging. During 2003, in the case of the Afghan children, the government placed them in shelter facilities and coordinated their repatriation with the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan.

Prevention

Saudi Arabia's efforts to prevent trafficking increased over the last year, particularly in the area of foreign domestics. The government established several interagency committees to research and establish programs to educate foreign workers, facilitate repatriation, and protect children. The government allows only licensed recruitment agencies to operate in the Kingdom and these agencies may only deal with licensed agencies in the labor source countries. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides information about trafficking and abuse to foreign laborers when they receive their visas abroad. The government supported a public service announcement targeting abused domestics, telling them to seek assistance at the government-run shelter facilities. To limit the number of "free visas," or visas not attached to an actual position, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs took over the authorization of visas for foreign laborers. A program to distribute information to foreign workers at Saudi Arabian airports upon arrival has not yet been fully implemented. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs also established a database of known abusers of foreign laborers to prevent them from hiring anyone in the future.

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