Dozens of Sri Lankan women wrongfully detained in Saudi Arabia for months

At least 41 Sri Lankan women, the majority of whom are migrant domestic workers, have spent months on end arbitrarily detained at a deportation center in Saudi Arabia, awaiting repatriation to their home country, Amnesty International revealed today.

None of the women have been informed of any charges brought against them; nor have they been granted access to a lawyer or received any consular assistance. Many were detained after they were unable to obtain an exit permit from their employer to leave the country or a work permit to regularize their stay in the country. Under Saudi Arabia's kafala system which ties migrant workers to their employer, this is grounds for indefinite detention.

Amnesty International interviewed 11 individuals with close knowledge of the detentions, including migrant domestic workers, an activist and an official from the Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh.

In at least five cases, women were detained because they fled from an abusive employer and had not obtained an exit permit from their employer to leave the country.

One of the women awaiting repatriation said she left her job as a domestic worker in October 2020 following months of irregular pay since she first began working in Saudi Arabia in mid-2018, which left her significantly out of pocket for the work she had done. Her employer even deducted the cost of toiletries from her salary. When she resigned, her employer gave her some money for an airline ticket and left her on the street near the airport to find her own way back to Sri Lanka. She was handed over to the police by airport officials then detained after trying to buy an airline ticket as she did not have an exit permit.

English | April 15, 2021



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