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Opinions of Monday, 7 November 2016

Columnist: Osei, Nana Yaw

Saudi Arabia: A forlorn plea of African migrant worker

Prior to Americans discovery of oil in commercial quantities in 1938, what is now oil rich kingdom of Saudi Arabia was predominantly a poverty-drenched nomadic economy.

The data from US Energy Information Administration suggest that Saudi Arabia possesses 16% of the world’s proved oil reserves. It is the largest exporter of total petroleum liquids in the world.

from oil, the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca is the holy abode of Muslims all over the world. Certainly, the obligatory performance of hajj at the holy city of Mecca as one of the pillars of Islam coupled with the cosmopolitan nature of Islam and its emphasis on universal brotherhood and hospitality had naturally attracted many migrant workers into the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The horrific experience of some of these workers from poverty-stricken frightened economies of Africa and south eastern Asia deserve the priority attention of the international communities. This article reflects on the conditions of migrants workers in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Torture, rape, sexual assaults, beating, killings are the treatment meted out to migrant workers in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia abolished slavery in 1962. The abolition of slavery is an illusion as the contract slavery of domestic servants still exist in Saudi Arabia. Economic gains on the part of sending and receiving nations motivate the influx of female workers from their home countries to Saudi Arabia. Besides, restrictive contract system, apparently a catalyst for servitude, bind the female domestic workers to her employer.

In his article, Graham Peeble asserted that “Migrant workers make up a third (8 million) of the population and over half the workforce in Saudi Arabia; they are mainly unskilled labourers and domestic workers (jobs the Saudis don't want to do), “are inadequately protected by labour laws and are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by their employers”

[Amnesty International[ii]], including: excessive working hours, up to 15 to 20 hours a day, seven days a week; wages withheld for months or years on end; forced confinement; food deprivation; and severe psychological, physical, and sexual abuse. Women domestic workers “are also at particular risk of sexual violence and other abuses.”

A study by the Philippines based Committee on Workers Overseas Welfare[iii] says, “70% of [Filipino] workers employed as caregivers or without a specific work qualification suffers continuous physical and psychological harassment,” in the oil rich gulf state [report by Asia News[iv]]. Lorraine, a 27-year old Filipino arrived in Saudi Arabia in 2010. ‘When my boss came to pick me up’ - she says – ‘he tried to touch me at once to see if I was available. In the first weeks I constantly suffered his advances, which became more insistent every time I refused.’ In nine months of employment Lorraine was raped five times.” She was beaten and insulted by the man’s wife and fed on bread and leftovers.”

Readers can follow up on this link http://www.grahampeebles.org/5583d82ae4b0c29e1bf22fc2/2015/6/19/killed-beaten-raped-migrant-workers-in-saudi-arabia

One Ghanaian lady who spoke to the journalist, Nana Kyei-Baffour of Klasic radio in Atlanta Georgia lamented over how she is being harassed. The ministry of foreign affairs and the Ghana embassy in Saudi Arabia must act quickly and save the lives of these domestic servants in Saudi Arabia.

We in Africa cannot entreat Saudi Arabains to make laws to favor our migrant workers, even so, we can sensitize our citizens on dangers that come with working in Saudi Arabia. Racism is common throughout the kingdom, from the royal monarch at the top to the rural folks at the bottom; it forms part of a nefarious cocktail of rigid sectarianism, classism, clannism, and state-sponsored xenophobia that underpins extreme exploitation, Peeble, quoted from al Jazeera.

Individuals who want to travel to Saudi Arabia must be aware of the fact that the kingdom and unfavorable human rights laws are inseparable. For example, Saudi Arabian judge in 2007 sentenced a 19-year-old gang rape victim to 200 lashes and six months in jail. The Shi’ite Muslim woman was initially sentenced to 90 lashes after being convicted of violating Saudi Arabia’s rigid Islamic Sharia law on segregation of the sexes.

Read more at http://www.theinfopost.org/2015/03/19-year-old-gang-rape-victim-to-receive.html#0Jg2UBdprOSlQXro.99

In sum, it is my fervent wish that this article will goad African leaders in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Nigeria, Ghana and other applicable countries to fashion out appropriate interventions to either evacuate their female citizens from Saudi Arabia or work with Arabian authorities through UN and Amnesty International to ameliorate the working conditions of female workers in servitude.

“We can conceive of a future without high-rises. But humanity without music and love is not just inconceivable: it is impossible” (George Leonard). Let us help our African sisters.

By Nana Yaw Osei (Padigo), USA. Feedback must be directed to Padigogoma77@yahoo.co.uk

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