UN criticizes human rights violations against Vietnamese female domestic workers in Saudi Arabia
Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice
Geneva: December 26, 2021
UN experts have criticized human rights violations committed against a group of Vietnamese women and girls who are victims of trafficking and were recruited by various labour recruitment agencies in Vietnam to work as domestic workers in Saudi Arabia, amid calls for the Saudi government to stop this forced and sexual exploitation of these women.
Sexual exploitation and deprivation of food and treatment:
According to a UN memo sent by experts to the Saudi government on October 25, 2021, some companies recruited underage girls and changed their ages on their identity documents, and upon their arrival in Saudi Arabia, many of these women found themselves in exploitative situations.
The experts added that some women were subjected to beatings, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, allegations of sexual assault and sexual violence were also reported, and some were reported to have been subjected to forced labour, denied food and medical treatment and not paid their wages or paid less than their contracts stipulated.
The UN note indicated that some women tried to leave these abusive situations, and some of them were placed in the Sakan center for social services in Riyadh by the police, while others escaped from the homes of their employers and reached the center.
The center allegedly confiscated their identity documents, and according to its regulations, women in the center cannot leave the compound unless accompanied by Saudi authorities or diplomatic mission officials of the residents’ country of origin.
UN concern about these violations:
The experts expressed their concern about reported abuses against this group of women and girls by their employers, in particular allegations that they were trafficked from Vietnam, subjected to forced labor, and denied food and medical treatment while working for their employers in Saudi Arabia, and that, if confirmed, these allegations amount to acts of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
UN demands from the Saudi government:
The experts asked the Saudi government to provide details of any investigations and any other inquiries conducted in relation to these allegations and indicate whether any employers were punished for non-payment of wages, and if so, specify the penalties that were applied to the number of employers.
The experts also called on Saudi Arabia to provide information on measures taken to enhance cooperation between the Vietnamese judicial authorities and the Saudi government in cross-border trafficking cases, including in particular, with regard to alleged victims who have returned to Vietnam.
The experts also requested an indication of the measures taken to ensure the safe and voluntary return of victims of trafficking in accordance with the principle of non-refoulement and efforts to facilitate access to long-term social protection for survivors of trafficking and other forms of contemporary slavery or labour exploitation that are provided unconditionally, regardless of the victims’ participation in criminal proceedings.