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Human Trafficking

Prevalence, Abuse & Exploitation of Street Children

In the first decade of the 21st Century                                               

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has an oil-based economy with strong government controls over major economic activities.

About 40% of GDP comes from the private sector. Roughly 6.4 million foreign workers play an important role in the Saudi economy, particularly in the oil and service sectors.

The government is encouraging private sector growth - especially in power generation, telecommunications, natural gas exploration, and petrochemicals - to lessen the kingdom's dependence on oil exports and to increase employment opportunities for the swelling Saudi population, nearly 40% of which are youths under 15 years old. Unemployment is high, and the large youth population generally lacks the education and technical skills the private sector needs. Riyadh has substantially boosted spending on job training and education, infrastructure development, and government salaries.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]


CAUTION:  The following links and accompanying text have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Saudi Arabia.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspect(s) of street life are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring how children got there, how they survive, and how some manage to leave the street.  Perhaps your paper could focus on how some street children abuse the public and how they are abused by the public … and how they abuse each other.  Would you like to write about market children? homeless children?  Sexual and labor exploitation? begging? violence? addiction? hunger? neglect? etc.  There is a lot to the subject of Street Children.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.


Child beggars thrive on Muslim holy season in Gulf states

Agence France-Presse AFP, DUBAI, Oct 12, 2007

[accessed 12 February 2015]

[accessed 21 November 2016]

According to a study by the Imam Mohammad bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh published in the Saudi daily Okaz, more than 80,000 "street children" can be found at any one time in the six oil-rich Gulf Arab monarchies -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.


*** ARCHIVES ***

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 29 March 2020]

CHILDREN - Abuse of children was a problem, although it was difficult to gauge the prevalence of child abuse, since the government kept no national statistics on such cases. Although in general the culture greatly prizes children, studies by citizen female doctors indicated that severe abuse and neglect of children appeared to be more widespread than previously reported. At least two NGOs, one in Riyadh and one in Jeddah, run shelters for women and children. The press has also raised national consciousness about the problem.

In 2003, the MOI's center for crime prevention and research reported that 21 percent of male children suffered from some form of abuse. The report stated that 34 percent of the abused suffered from some sort of psychological abuse, and 25 percent suffered physical abuse. The figures excluded female children and accusations of sexual abuse, as the ministry stated that the issues were too sensitive for public discussion.

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 26 January 2001

[accessed 21 December 2010]

[7] The Committee is concerned that the broad and imprecise nature of the State party's general reservation potentially negates many of the Convention's provisions and raises concern as to its compatibility with the object and purpose of the Convention, as well as the overall implementation of the Convention.

Street life hits the most vulnerable

Abdulrahman Khataresh, Hassan Qurbi, and Hussain Hazazi, The Saudi Gazette, Jeddah, Oct 17, 2008

[accessed 17 July 2011]

[accessed 3 January 2017]

A recently published study from the research center at King Fahd Security College in Riyadh found that the Kingdom is home to 83,000 street children with their earnings, made through a variety of criminal activities, going to their families or gang ringleaders.  The study says the average age of the children is 7 years old and that they generally originate from poorly educated families, with extreme poverty cited as the most significant factor.

Although a relatively recent phenomenon in the Kingdom, the presence of children living and working on the street has increased noticeably with the huge influx of illegally smuggled children from Asia and Africa, mostly through the southern border with Yemen.  Neglected by families, often deployed by gangs, organized groups of children aged between 6 and 15 group and train before being let loose to roam the streets and earn a crust through anything from pickpocketing to armed robbery.  Away from the battlefield, the gang leaders give orders from dilapidated houses in the most rundown neighborhoods in town.

For months boys are manipulated and trained before they head for the street for illegal beggary, and sometimes violence, to fatten the bank account of their master, and sometimes even the biological father.  The remit of such a child may include daily begging with no days off, distributing contraband material, and robbing shops, with some possible drug use to numb the pain and deal with the hardships of street life. Jeddah is recorded as the most popular place for children to beg in, followed by Makkah and Riyadh.  Street children under 20 years old also commonly fall victim to sexual abuse and exploitation, says Mani Al-Dajani, a sociologist at Imam University, in his recent research.

38,000 ‘street’ children in Kingdom, says study

Hussien Hazazi, The Saudi Gazette, Jeddah, Oct 10, 2008

[accessed 17 July 2011]

There are nearly 38,000 children on the Kingdom’s streets, according to a recent study published in the Security Research Journal.  Some 68 percent of these children are foreign vendors and beggars. Most of these were found to have entered the Kingdom on Umrah or Haj visa but never left Makkah.  The study found that the families of these children could not afford their education, compelling them to drop out of school and have a second home in the street.  The study found that living on the street would lead them to child labor, beggary, crime, and drug addiction.

83,000 homeless children roam Saudi streets - study

Mariam Al Hakeem, Gulf News, Riyadh, April 9, 2007

[accessed 17 July 2011]

Around 83,000 homeless children are roaming the streets of Saudi Arabia, according to a recently released study.  The children are believed to have been brought from neighbouring countries to work as camel jockeys and later were used for selling low-priced goods, according to Dr Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Yousuf, associate professor of sociology at the Riyadh-based Imam Mohammad Bin Saud Islamic University.

Rude awakening

Peter Willems, Yemen Times, Issue: (738), Volume 13 , From 17 May 2004 to 19 May 2004

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 17 July 2011]

UNICEF discovered child trafficking in Yemen a little over a year ago. While working with children spending time in prison and child labor, it came across children who had the experience of being shipped off to Saudi Arabia.  “When we were working with street children, we discovered that there was a problem of child trafficking in the country that we were not aware of,” said Shalan. “These children started talking about their experiences. They had already been in Saudi Arabia, they were abused, and they talked to us about the horrendous conditions they went through.”

Parents, children complicit in human trafficking - Report

Mohammed Al-Attab, Yemen Observer Newspaper, Sana’a, Vol.VIII Issue 05, Feb 5, 2005

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 17 July 2011]

The report found that most children started the journey accompanied by a direct relation, although some children traveled with other children instead.  According to the study, just over 50% fell within the age range 13-16 years old, and of the 59 cases, only two were girls.  On arrival in Saudi Arabia, nearly 75% of children successfully found work, but most were unable to find a place to live.  64.5% had no place of residence and therefore lived on the street.

Improving Living Environments for the Low-Income Households

MOST Clearing House Best Practices

[accessed 17 July 2011]

[accessed 3 January 2017]

NARRATIVE - For the urban poor, mainly the low-income people, the government launched a serviced land plots program aimed at providing them free land plots so that they could build their own dwellings with interest-free loans from the Real Estate Development Fund.  In Riyadh alone, 100,000 plots have been given away to the poor in the last ten years.  Although the supply of urban housing increased considerably, it fell short of the demand.

Illegal EXPATS remain on streets despite order

[Last access date unavailable]

Many of the homeless arrived in Saudi Arabia under Umrah or Haj visas and remained to seek out a living on the streets.

The homeless often sleep in makeshift shelters and wait for daily food to be delivered by charities. Many have lived in the district for about one year after failing to use their round trip airline tickets in a timely manner.

Conference May Break Taboo On Sexual Abuse In Arab Countries

Dima Hamdan, AMAN News Center, YOKOHAMA, January 02, 2002

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 17 July 2011]

All experts on the Middle East have acknowledged that the problem in Arabic countries is not as dire.  However, in the absence of proper research on the subject, the size of the problem is anyone's guess.  The prostitution is there, and many street children become prostitutes, and the demand comes from Arab, as well as European and American tourists.

All material used herein reproduced under the fair use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.  PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHTS OF COMPONENT ARTICLES.  Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Street Children – Saudi Arabia",, [accessed <date>]