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Latha P.

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.

Sri Lankan domestic worker Latha P. was trapped in domestic servitude in Saudi Arabia. She was beaten and her salary was withheld. She went to the embassy for her salary but without a translator could not understand what her employers were saying when they claimed they had already paid her salary.

Whenever I asked for my salary, they beat me up. I got the first three months salary somehow. I got a call that my father was really sick, then I asked for my salary and they beat me up

There were no translators there, I couldn’t talk. Whatever the [employers] said, the [police] wrote it down. The police asked for money for the ticket from me. I had no cash to give them…. The police and Baba thought I had money, they said I was lying…. There was another girl in the camp who knows a little bit of Arabic and Sinhala, so she helped me with translation. I said, “If they don’t pay my salary, just pay my ticket.” I asked to be put in another house, but Baba said “I don’t want her to work in another house”; madam also refused. I will forego my salary, I just need a ticket. There is no one to pay for the ticket.

Baba kept saying that he paid my salary. The embassy people told the police, “If you claim she has been paid her salary, then she should have been paid in front of us.” They kept on insisting they paid my salary, they said I was lying. Now I have given up and I told the embassy people, “Put me in another house so that I can earn money for a ticket.” Sir tried, but can’t because Baba has given a written statement that I can’t work in another house.


Narrative credit to Human Rights Watch

Original Narrative can be found in Human Rights Watch Report “As If I am Not Human”: Abuses Against Asian Domestic Workers in Saudi Arabia