The FIDH and the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights wish to bring to the attention of the members of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination the situation of migrants workers in Saudi Arabia, victims of discriminatory treatment and appalling working conditions.
The present report documents the various violations of the ICERD regarding those workers. It is illustrated with summaries of testimonies collected by the Egyptian Organization for human Rights, an independent human rights NGO affiliated to the FIDH.
In Saudi Arabia, migrant workers represent more than 50% of the workforce (approximately 6 millions foreign workers in Saudi Arabia, even if the exact number is unknown, given the number of undocumented persons).
For this foreign workforce, working in Saudi Arabia represents a chance to escape from poverty, and offer a better future to their relatives.
In Saudi Arabia, as in other Gulf countries, foreign workers are employed under the sponsorship system. Workers come to Saudi Arabia through an invitation of their employers, their residency is subject to the signature of a working contract with an employer. This employer can be an enterprise, an individual or even the State, when it concerns a post in the public sector (e.g. a doctor or a nurse).
Highly criticized by international Human Rights NGO (see Amnesty international campaign on Saudi Arabia, Human Rights Watch annual reports, etc), this system creates a series of grave human rights violations, including violations of the ICERD.
Migrant workers are totally at the mercy of their employers who behold their passports, limit their freedom of movement. They are prevented from changing job and cannot leave the place of their work. Some do not receive their salary and are mistreated.