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Marilou 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.

Marilou R. travelled from the Philippines to Saudi Arabia to help pay for her nephew’s medication. Her communication from her family and other workers was cut off and her labour went unpaid.

I have a BS [Bachelors degree in Science] in Agriculture, in Crop Science. I was a technician in Mindanao. Yes I enjoyed it so much, I earned 5,000 pesos [$107]. [I migrated because] I have a nephew who had heart failure. Every month we need 10,000 pesos [$214] for his heart medicine.

I could not talk to my companions, the other maids. I could not have a mobile, call the Philippines, or write letters. I have spent six months without communication. That is why I always cry, I worked without a salary and without communicating with my family.

My salary here was [equivalent to] 10,000 [pesos] per month, and I spent six months without a salary. It is better to work in the Philippines with 5,000 pesos because at least you get paid.

I told the case officer that I want to go home. I only need the exit visa. For the ticket, I have friends who will give money…. A case officer told me it is better to go home through deportation. I said, ‘No! I want my salary. I don’t want to go as an illegal, I want to go legally.


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.