Saudi Arabia: A Nightmare For Migrant Domestic Workers

by
Sameera Ehteram
This painful to watch video clearly demonstrates the plight of domestic staff in Saudi Arabia and shows that these servants are treated inhumanely.

This painful to watch video clearly demonstrates the plight of domestic staff in Saudi Arabia and shows that these servants are treated inhumanely.

Amazingly, the video is doing the rounds just a few months after the Saudi government passed a "Protection from Abuse” law, a legislation aimed at protecting women, children and domestic workers against  abuse.

Saudi Arabia announced the new rules to protect the rights of foreign domestic workers; most of who are from South Asia, but stressed they must “respect” Islam and “obey” their employers.

The working conditions for domestic staff in the Kingdom can be gauged by the fact that fresh legislation is required to ensure that workers are given their” agreed monthly salary without delay and a day off each week.”

Nightmare For Migrant Workers

The new legislation aims to reconcile the rights of around two million domestic workers and their employers. Under its provisions, workers — including maids and drivers — are now legally entitled to nine hours of free time a day, a salary at the end of every month, sick leave, and a one-month paid vacation every two years. Additionally, employers are prohibited from asking workers to undertake tasks that are outside the contract or could harm their health.

In July 2013, Princess Meshael Alayban wife of Saudi Prince Abdul Rahman bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz al Saud, was arrested in Los Angeles and charged with human trafficking.

Alayban had brought her maid to the United States in May, confiscating her passport and paying her $220 a month to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week.

The number of migrant domestic workers employed in Saudi Arabia, most of them from South and South East Asia, is still unknown.  

If the horrible working conditions were not bad enough, many domestic servants have recently faced the death penalty. At the beginning of this year, there were more than 45 foreign maids on death row.

Nightmare For Migrant Workers

The Human Rights Watch recently documented the deplorable conditions of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia- they are forced into confinement, deprived of such basic necessities as food and face severe psychological, physical and sexual abuse.

The Human Rights watch blames the Kingdom’s sponsorship system for this.

The kafala(sponsorship) system ties migrant workers’ residency permits to “sponsoring” employers, whose written consent is required for workers to change employers or exit the country. Employers abuse this power to confiscate passports, withhold wages, and force migrants to work against their will, against Saudi law.”

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