Working abroad is not without its risks, especially when it comes to cases of exploitation and human trafficking. Fortunately, over the years, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has taken huge steps in upholding the rights of foreign workers, as well as protecting them from human traffickers.
Just last week, in Cairo, a senior official presented the Kingdom’s efforts in fighting against human trafficking. These efforts are focused on prevention, defense, and prosecution.
Saudi Arabia’s Efforts Against Human Trafficking
On Monday, 10th February 2020, the general manager of international cooperation and organizations at Saudi’s Human Rights Commission (HRC), Amal Yahya Al-Moualami, talked about the Kingdom’s anti-trafficking efforts and the corresponding positive results, Arab News reported. Al-Moualami also happens to be the head of the Saudi delegation at the Arab League.
Saudi’s Human Rights Commission
The Human Rights Commission (HRC) was established pursuant to Council of Ministers Decision No. 207 of 12th September 2005. The official website mentions that it is the government body responsible for dispensing advice and opinion on human rights issues, and it adheres to the following vision, message, and objectives:
“The Human Rights Commission (HRC) is a pioneering initiative that aims to protect and promote human rights in all fields, in accordance with international standards, raise awareness of them, and contribute to ensuring their implementation under the provisions of Islamic law. It shall be the governmental body competent to provide opinion and advice on human rights matters.”
Anti-Trafficking in Persons Committee
Headquartered at the HRC, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Committee was established in 2009, pursuant to Council of Ministers Decision No. 244. It is composed of representatives from the Ministries of the Interior, Justice, Foreign Affairs, Social Affairs, Labour, and Culture and Information, as well as from the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution.
The HRC website lists the functions of the committee, as follows:
- To follow up on victims of trafficking and ensure that they are not victimized again;
- To formulate a policy that encourages a proactive approach to seeking out human trafficking victims, and providing relevant personnel with training on victim identification;
- To coordinate with relevant authorities in the repatriation of human trafficking victims to their home countries, or, upon request, to their place of residence in another country; and
- To make recommendations regarding human trafficking victims who would remain in Saudi Arabia, and, if necessary, to regularize their status so that they can work in the Kingdom.
Coordination with International Organizations
In July 2019, the Kingdom signed a memorandum of understanding with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) regarding human trafficking prevention measures. A few months later, Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Anti-Human Trafficking Committee held a meeting led by HRC head Dr. Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad, Arab News reported.
During the meeting, Al-Awwad stressed the need for more efforts to curb human trafficking. He also directed the committee’s general secretariat to provide updated information about the matter, in order to draw up reports to be presented to international organizations.
The committee, along with representatives from the Ministry of Labor and Social Development (MLSD), reviewed the ministry’s plans on protecting worker’s rights and improving the working relationship between employers and employees.
Different Measures Against Human Trafficking
During a meeting of the Committee for Combating Trafficking in Persons held earlier this year, Al-Awwad put emphasis on the importance of coordination among different authorities to address human trafficking, Arab News reported. He also praised the electronic link project that connected different sections of the HRC.
In addition, he discussed the Kingdom’s achievements in combating human trafficking, citing international agreements and MOUs signed between Saudi Arabia and international organizations. He said that all of these had contributed to developing a framework that offered protection against human trafficking and prosecution against perpetrators.
In a meeting with Judge Hatim Ali, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), IOM officials, and several government agencies, Al-Awwad described the electronic link project as “a step in the right direction,” especially since it helps in facilitating coordination among different government authorities.
The meeting also covered measures to be taken by the UNODC, based on an MOU signed with the HRC. These include the provision of technical and administrative expertise in centers that shelter human trafficking victims, as well as the establishment of mechanisms that would provide them with legal, financial, and moral support services.
Training Program on Anti-Trafficking
Just recently, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Committee at the HRC organized a training program held in Riyadh and in the Eastern Province, Arab News reported. The four-day training program was titled, “Search and Investigation Procedures in Trafficking in Persons Cases.”
The training program sought to advance the capabilities of persons involved in anti-trafficking investigations. Experts from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) were invited to participate in the training, which covered topics such as criminal investigation strategies, collection of evidence, and inspection procedures.
The training program also focused on seven axes, including the “human rights-based security approach” to human trafficking cases, based on national law and protocols. In accordance with guidelines on human rights, this approach looks into the process of interviewing victims, as well as providing them — and witnesses, if any — with protection during criminal justice procedures.
Notably, the training program goes in line with the MOU framework signed between the OHCHR and the HRC, which includes technical cooperation programs in human rights-related efforts. It also falls under the Kingdom’s efforts in combating human trafficking, as it promotes the prosecution of perpetrators and the provision of legal, financial, and moral support to victims.
With these measures and programs in place, foreign workers can rest assured that the Saudi government holds their welfare, rights, and interests in mind. And in case you become a victim of human trafficking, or witness anyone who does, do not hesitate to contact these emergency hotlines and important numbers in Saudi Arabia, for immediate assistance and proper action.
DISCLAIMER: The above details are presented for information-sharing purposes only. For more information regarding anti-trafficking programs in the Kingdom, please visit the official website of Saudi’s Human Rights Commission (HRC).