At least 41 Sri Lankan women, the majority of whom are migrant domestic workers have spent months on end arbitrarily detained at a deportation centre in Saudi Arabia, awaiting repatriation to their home country, Amnesty International (AI) revealed yesterday.
The women have been held at a Deportation Detention (Tarheel) Centre in Riyadh for periods ranging from eight to 18 months. At least three of them have young children detained with them, and one woman is in urgent need of medical care and treatment which she is not receiving.
Their plight is a stark illustration of how domestic workers remain caught up in the inherently abusive kafala (sponsorship) system. In March 2021 Saudi Arabia brought in significant reforms to its kafala system, however, these reforms excluded migrant domestic workers who make up 30% of the country’s 10 million migrant workers.
“Detaining migrant workers for prolonged periods of up to 18 months when they have done nothing wrong and are victims themselves is cruel and inhumane. These women left their homes and families behind to earn a livelihood in Saudi Arabia only to find themselves locked into an abusive sponsorship system that facilitates exploitation and abuse. Now they are indefinitely detained with no opportunity to challenge their detention and no indication of when they can be reunited with their loved ones,” said Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.
- Now they are indefinitely detained with no opportunity to challenge their detention