[ Human Trafficking, Country-by-Country ]

SAUDI ARABIA (Tier 2 Watch List) Extracted from the U.S. State Dept 2020 TIP Report

The Government of Saudi Arabia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government made key achievements during the reporting period; therefore Saudi Arabia was upgraded to Tier 2 Watch List. These achievements included enactment of the country’s first-ever national referral mechanism (NRM), developed in close partnership with international organizations. The government transparently reported comprehensive datasets, which included significantly increased numbers of prosecutions and convictions under the anti-trafficking law (including of Saudi nationals and forced labor crimes), in addition to numbers of victims identified and referred for care. Authorities also criminally convicted and sentenced to stringent imprisonment terms two Saudi officials complicit in trafficking crimes during the year. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. It continued to fine, jail, and/or deport migrant workers for prostitution or immigration violations, many of whom may have been unidentified trafficking victims. In addition, officials regularly misclassified potential trafficking crimes as administrative labor law violations rather than as criminal offenses. Despite modest initial reforms, Saudi Arabia’s sponsorship-based employment system continued to exacerbate trafficking vulnerabilities in the large migrant worker communities.

Prioritized Recommendations

Continue to increase the number of trafficking investigations, especially by investigating as potential crimes (not just as administrative issues) indicators of trafficking such as passport retention, withholding of wages, labor violations, and complaints of abuse. • Undertake serious efforts to prevent penalization of trafficking victims by proactively screening for trafficking among those arrested for immigration violations, commercial sex, or those who flee abusive employers and face counter-charges and deportation. • Disseminate, train officials on, and regularly use the newly launched NRM to ensure victims among vulnerable populations, including domestic workers, illegal foreign workers, deportees, and persons in commercial sex, receive proper care and are not wrongfully penalized. • Build upon initial steps to reform the sponsorship system, including by removing employers’ control over exit permits for all laborers. • Amend the anti-trafficking law to remove sentencing provisions that allow fines in lieu of imprisonment for sex trafficking offenses. • Continue to increase efforts to prosecute, convict, and sentence traffickers to significant prison terms under the anti-trafficking law. • Pursue criminal investigations against all officials allegedly complicit in trafficking crimes. • Expand usage of the specialized Public Prosecutor’s Office (PPO) sub-units to detect potential trafficking cases across the country. • Institute regular trainings for government officials on identifying cases of both labor and sex trafficking and how to differentiate between forced labor and labor-related crimes. • Continue to conduct countrywide public awareness campaigns on all forms of trafficking.