Saudi Arabia - Country of Concern: latest updates, 30 June 2014

There was no significant change in the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia between March and June.

On 12 June, Saudi Arabia became a member of the International Association of Labour Inspection (IALI). The IALI focuses on areas such as working conditions, illegal employment and child labour. It is comprised of labour organisations and ministries from over 50 countries.

An amnesty for foreign workers to regularise their status in Saudi Arabia came to an end in 2013, which led to an estimated 1.5 million migrant workers leaving the country. The Saudi Arabian government has now agreed updated bilateral arrangements with a number of the countries of origin of these migrant workers. For legalised workers remaining in Saudi Arabia, we hope that more accurate labour records and recent legal reforms will improve the most basic rights of migrant employees: e.g. by legislating for them to be paid at least monthly, to have access to their own identity documents, and for domestic workers to have at least nine hours of rest per day and a day off each week. We welcome any improvement in the legal position of such migrant workers.

There have been further recent developments, with fines and sponsorship bans for Saudi Arabians failing to pay their domestic workers on time. In June 2014, the Ministry of Labour issued a directive that people working outside (such as in construction) should not work between 12:00 and 15:00 during the summer months to take account of the high temperatures. Saudi Arabia has also seen an increase in jobs for women. The number of women working in the private sector increased from 55,000 in 2009 to 400,000 in April 2014. On 21 May, Saudi Arabia appointed 40 Saudi women to work at King Abdulaziz International Airport to process the passports of female travellers.

However, the British Government continues to have serious concerns about women's rights, particularly the guardianship system in Saudi Arabia, and we will continue to engage on this issue with the Saudi government.

While no official figures are published, reports indicate that, by the end of June, 15 people had been executed in 2014. Those executed were mainly convicted of murder, armed robbery and drugs related offences. This compares with 45 people executed between January and May in 2013.

The Royal Diwan announced at the end of June, to mark the Holy Month of Ramadan, that King Abdullah will pardon a number of prisoners who have been accused of violating public rights. A specialist committee has been formed to decide which prisoners will be eligible for a pardon.

Updated 21 January 2015

This 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.