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Saudi: Migrant domestic workers continue to face labour abuses despite recent labour law reforms

Saudi has issued a recent directive that bans recruitment agencies and employers from using the words “sale”, “for purchase” and “concession” when referring to the recruitment or transfer of domestic workers services. The directive also bans the use of the word “servant,” and provides for the use of “domestic worker” instead. However, Migrant-Rights.org believes that banning these terminologies will not address the injustices faced by domestic migrant workers in Saudi. The real problem that needs to be tackled is the absence of legal protection, the exclusion of domestic workers from labour laws, the sponsorship system and the weak redressal mechanism

Domestic workers cannot leave the country without their sponsor permission to leave. A domestic worker from Uganda who is currently in Riyadh told Migrant-Workers.org that she was forced to work even after her contract ended. Her employer held her passport and didn't allow her return home when her contract came to an end. When she reported the incident to the police, she was arrested and taken to a deportation centre where she has been detained for months.

Migrant-Rights.org says that "Changing terminology is only a gimmick if the legal and socio-cultural environment continues to disrespect and disempower workers.  Inclusion into labour laws, better redress mechanisms that recognise the unique vulnerabilities of domestic workers (particularly women), reforming the recruitment methods, and holding abusive employers accountable are the pressing needs".