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2006 (Narrative date)

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. 

Farzana travelled from Sri Lanka to Saudi Arabia for work to pay off debts she owed on her house. Upon arrival she was locked up with others at the agency that had recruited her. She managed to escape. 

I needed money [to regain] our house: we had a debt of Rs. 70,000 [$625] to pay. My husband wanted me to come to Saudi Arabia. He said, ‘If you can earn enough money, we can get the house back.’ I had to come to pay the debt, there was no [other] choice. 

Five of us all jumped [ran away]. It was on the ground floor, we escaped by putting a table in the bathroom, put a chair on a barrel and jumped. Otherwise, the agency people would beat us if we refused to go out and work. 


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.