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Chemmani R.

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.

Chemmani travelled from Sri Lanka to Saudi Arabia for work to help support her family. She as not paid for her work. When Chemmani R. approached a police officer after escaping her employer, a police officer took her to an isolated area and raped her.300 When he stopped the car and got out to buy water, she grabbed his driver’s license and ran out.

She was transferred to a deportation centre with no opportunity to pursue her case.

My father told me that my...mother was killed in the tsunami... [I also] lost my grandmother, my cousin, my younger sister’s son…. My father wanted me to send some money for my son’s medical expenses. I asked the employer for money, they refused…. I [wanted] to leave because why should I be here if they are not giving money to send to my son and Baba [her male employer] is trying to misbehave with me. I did not have any chance to leave because everything was locked up. When Baba and Mama were out they locked the doors to the outside. I did not run away because I did not have a chance, because there is no house nearby.

[After my escape] I was staying [in the mosque] and I knew Babas and Mamas, a lot of men and women, come there to pick maids…. There was a lady who came and saw me and told me she would pay me 700 riyals [$182], and I would have to look after only her two children…. My passport was with my earlier Baba…. That was the reason that she [the lady] was paying me more. She was paying extra 300 riyals because I was staying without a passport or visa and she knew that when I had to come back to Sri Lanka I would have to go to the embassy.

If they knocked on my door after midnight I had to get up and I had to cook when they told me

The lady refused to give me a separate room to stay so I used to stay in an empty space on the staircase.

When I went to the police station, they told me, ‘You are a housemaid, you are from Sri Lanka; he is from this country, he is a wealthy man, you can’t argue with him, it’s better that you go back to your country.


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.