Post 7: Human Trafficking in Saudi Arabia

By Erica

Part One:  Is sex trafficking, sex slavery an issue in your country and region?

When trying to research sex trafficking in Saudi Arabia not much came up, but they do have a huge Human trafficking problem. Women who are being trafficked are usually sold as maids or nannies, depending on the household or “owner” they could be sexually assaulted.

While researching Human trafficking in Saudi Arabia I came across a story by Paula Travrow about a flight she was on in November 2017. On this flight from Abuja to Cairo, she started talking to the Nigerian girl sitting next to her was being the trafficked and had no idea. The first red flag came when Paula asked her seatmate why she was going to Saudi Arabia, the girl explained that her friend from elementary school messaged her on the WhatsUpApp tell her about an opportunity to get a job as a nanny there for two years. She then found out the female did not know Arabic, did not have a contract, and that her ticket was one way. Her ticket was also a copy of one. The girl did not know who was picking her up at the airport, just that they would have a sign with her name on it. Her flight was set to land at 3am when no one would be around. The Nigerian girl was also unaware of where the family she would be working for lived or their name. Upon arriving in Cairo, Paula tried to explain the concept of trafficking to the girl, the airport did not have wifi so she was unable to google it. Paula also alerted the Egyptian police, who basically said that it was Saudi Arabia’s government problem because the way their policies are written makes it legal. Which a human’s right lawyer later confirmed.

The girl later contacted Paula about three months later, thanking her for the warning. Paula suspections ended up being right. The Nigerian girl ended up falling ill while in Saudi and was sent home three months later.

So why didn’t the Egyptian police listen to Paula’s claim and stop the young girl from being trafficked? Because technically what the Nigerian girl was experiencing is legal in Saudi under the Kefala system. The Kefala system is the “legal structure in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries by which employers sponsor foreign workers and remain responsible for the visa and residence status of the women fur the duration of their stay in the country” (The DW). However, families have been known to sell their labors to each other. Typically the family holds on the “maids” passport and does not let them have a phone to call their family. The Maids work long hours, are sometimes beaten and starved.

According to The Center of Democracy and Human Rights “It’s estimated that there are between 9 and 10 million defenseless expatriate laborers in Saudi Arabia, of which two to three million are maids. ”

Image result for saudi arabia human trafficking
Post on social media selling two “maids”. Picture Courtesy of DW

Part Two: The article (pdf) Born Free talks about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which came into effect in 2016. Find out if human trafficking is addressed by one of the goals? What needs to be done to combat human trafficking?


Of the seventeen sustainable development goals put in place for Saudi Arabia to achieve by 2030, number 16 is decreased modern slavery and have access to justice. These were the goals put in place by the UN Unites Nations, that we talked about in Post 2: Language in Saudi Arabia In 2017 Saudi Arabia announced they would be working with officials to help end human trafficking in the international community. Saudi Arabia has put officials in place to handle human trafficking but their efforts have not been effective. Since 2016 they have only issued to 823 houses. They did set up a hotline which has received over a 1,000 but is still not effective because foreign workers are not granted access to phones. Also according to the Kefala system the labor but stay with the family that sponsored them but this is typically not the case. You can also not post the sale of a labor on a public form which is violated a lot.

Image result for saudi arabia human trafficking
Human Trafficking facts. Picture Courtesy of Pro Saudi


Born Free: How to Prevent Human Trafficking By Sarah E. Mendelson

Jr, R. C. (2017, September 29). Saudi Arabia affirms commitment to end human trafficking. Retrieved November 16, 2018, from

Saudi Arabia. (n.d.). Retrieved November 16, 2018, from

Tavrow, P. (2018, June 21). The Trafficking Victim Beside Me – Member Feature Stories – Medium. Retrieved November 16, 2018, from


Click to access Schmidt-Traub_et_al-2017-Nature_Geoscience-2.pdf

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