Open Menu

Prema C.

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.

Prema C. travelled from Sri Lanka to Saudi Arabia for work through an agency. Prema’s passport was kept by her employers and she was forced to sleep on the floor.

I have the Sri Lankan agency address, but they didn’t give me the number or address for the Saudi agency.

I was not able to use the phone

At least three times, they went on vacation and would leave me at home. They wouldn’t lock the door. [But] they kept my passport…. I want to go to Sri Lanka. I can’t go because I have no iqama

We did not have a good understanding about the salary, I never knew if they would pay it or not.

There was no separate room. I slept on a space on the floor, with no pillow and no bedsheet.


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.