About 8 million migrants work in Saudi Arabia, but enjoy very few human rights. These migrants great contribute to the economic success and stability of the society. Most recently, the government began a crackdown on undocumented migrants living in the country. We call on the government to grant general amnesty to all undocumented migrants, followed by a general review of all migration policies. Further, it should ratify the UN Convention
The KSA government recently launched a targeted campaign to “drive out” undocumented workers. The move came as part of the Saudization or Nitaqat program. Established in 2011, Nitaqat sets targets for Saudi companies to reach in regards to the employment of Saudi nationals over foreigners and provides those companies with a ranking.
Highly restrictive visa policies in the KSA led to the development of “black market” for visas, and situations where people were hired for one job while actually performing another. The Ministry of Labor claims that the crackdown serves to regulate these undocumented persons. However, it has resulted in terrorization, unjustified detention, and a general violation of human rights.
While we respect the desire of the KSA government to nationalize the labor force, the government should do so in a way that upholds and respects the rights of all migrant workers.
Migrant workers are vital to the economic development of KSA, and the government should acknowledge their contribution to the health of the economy. About 8 million migrant workers reside in the Kingdom working primarily in the construction and domestic work sectors. An estimated one million of these workers are undocumented.
King Abdullah announced a reprieve to the crackdown earlier this week, but only after about 200,000 people were deported in the past three months. The reprieve will last for three months and allow undocumented workers to “rectify their situation,” according to a press relates by the state new agency.
We call on the government of the KSA to announce a policy of general amnesty for all undocumented workers in the Kingdom. Additionally, it should immediately stop all harassment, intimidation, and violence directed towards migrant workers, which amounts to a policy of sanctioned abuse.
The KSA government should also closely examine all policies relating to migrant workers and address the underlying causes, which lead to undocumented workers. It should begin by ratifying the UN Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and eliminating the Kafala system.
We also call on sending governments to ensure the protection of their own nationals living and working in the KSA by providing immediate financial assistance to stranded nationals. These governments should pressure the KSA government to respect and uphold the provisions of international conventions that protect the human rights of migrant workers. Further, sending governments should review any bilateral or multi-lateral agreements with the KSA to ensure the implementation of clauses safeguarding human rights.
Further, we call on international institutions such as the International Labour Organisation, the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, especially the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, to pressure the KSA government to enact a policy of general amnesty and encourage the creation of humane and just migration policies.
Finally, we call on the international community, migrant rights advocates and human rights organizations inside and outside Saudi Arabia to launch campaigns to support our call for general amnesty. We ask that CSO’s inside the KSA to reach out to and help migrant workers in need.
This campaign is sponsored by the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM), a regional migrants’ center dedicated to fighting for the rights of migrants in the Asia Pacific and Middle East regions.
Uphold and respect the rights, lives and dignity of migrant workers!