On 12 July 2019, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences and the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children published an Urgent Appeal addressed to Saudi Arabia concerning the human rights abuses suffered by domestic worker Ramu Mageswari, who is an Indian national.
Ms. Mageswari was trafficked by recruitment agents and arrived in Riyadh in June 2019 to work as a domestic servant. She was reportedly trafficked by a recruitment agent called “RIYASS,” and was taken to a private Saudi employer, who allegedly subjects her to ill-treatment and exploitation.
Under her employer, Ms. Mageswari does not have access to basic goods, such as food and water, and has not received any payment for her work since her arrival. Additionally, she has faced sexual abuse and has been prevented from communicating with her family and outside individuals. Because Ms. Mageswari was a victim of trafficking she is undocumented, and her passport has since been confiscated following her arrival in Saudi Arabia. Ms. Mageswari’s current location is unknown.
This treatment of migrant workers in the Arab Gulf is not uncommon. Since 2016, 9,771 complaints of labor abuse in the six Gulf countries have been reported by Indian workers – with the largest amount (36 percent) of these complaints being from Saudi Arabia. The majority of complaints concerned delayed wages and denial of labor rights and benefits, such as non-issuance, renewal of residence permits, and refusal to grant a final exit visa. As of 30 June 2019, a total of 5,804 Indians are registered for repatriation in the embassies or consulates in the Gulf countries.
The UN Special Procedures have requested additional information and any commentary from the Saudi government regarding the human rights abuses against Ms. Mageswari. Moreover, the Special Rapporteurs have requested Saudi authorities to take immediate measures to locate her, to ensure her access to health care and her repatriation to India, and to initiate an investigation into the abuses that occurred. Furthermore, they called for Saudi Arabia to provide details on measures taken to ensure protection of migrant workers’ rights and the availability of complaint mechanisms for exploitation victims. Saudi Arabia has responded to the appeal, but it has yet to be translated.
Gaia Parisi is an Advocacy/Legal Intern at ADHRB