Virginia Sherry condemns the exploitation of foreign workers in Saudi Arabia:

The victims, mostly from Asia, have endured everything from slavery-like labour conditions and sexual violence, to torture and judicially ordered beheadings following secret and unfair trials. There are 8.8 million foreign residents in Saudi Arabia, according to the Labour Ministry. This figure is significantly higher than any previously reported. In other words, for every two Saudis, there is one foreign worker. Foreigners account for 67 per cent of the workforce and hold 90 to 95 percent of private-sector jobs. The overwhelming majority are low-paid, skilled and unskilled workers who arrived legally, to work hard and send money to their families back home. Many came heavily indebted due to exorbitant fees charged by manpower agencies. They clean hospitals and schools, repair water pipes and collect garbage. They are plumbers, carpenters, bakers and barbers. Women clean, cook, care for children, work in beauty salons and sew custom-made clothing for the elite.

Millions are from rural and urban areas in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, where unemployment is high and poverty pervasive. Their monthly salaries in Saudi Arabia – if they are lucky enough to be paid on a regular basis – typically range from US$200 to US$300. In testimonies to Human Rights Watch, these men and women detailed how some employers impose slavery-like work conditions. They recounted how they worked 12 hours or more daily without overtime, had salaries unpaid for months, and never received benefits specified in their contracts. Women workers were locked into places of employment around the clock and denied freedom of movement during the contract period. Tragically, most tolerate the exploitation because they feel vulnerable and powerless.


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