After eight years of late salary payments, migrant workers fear that they will not be paid at all

Human rights violations in Saudi Arabia continue to rise sharply with no sign that they will be addressed anytime soon, despite the state-run media outlets constantly touting the country’s reform and progress as well as the billion-dollar deals in a variety of industries, the majority of which are entertainment, all done under the guise of national development and societal advancement.

One of the most notable examples of these violations is the mistreatment that migrant workers endure, whether it be from a dehumanizing labor system, ill-treatment by employers, or immunity granted to them by certain high-ranking state officials. Lastly, for almost ten years, business owners have avoided paying these workers’ salaries, and the Saudi government has done nothing significant to stop this absurdity.

Following the 2016 economic downturn that hit Saudi Arabia, many businesses neglected to pay the salaries of a sizable number of migrant workers. Some of them were forced to borrow from the families they support in their home country in order to be able to leave Saudi Arabia, and others were stranded and had no choice but to obtain other residency. Legitimacy in tragic circumstances due to the lack of any source of income to leave Saudi Arabia or even work for other parties.

The most prominent of these companies were “Muhammad Al-Mojil Group” and “Saudi Oger Company Limited”. In 2019, the Executive Court in Riyadh estimated that the now-liquidated Saudi Oger owes an estimated SAR 2.6 billion (about US$693 million) in unpaid wages and other benefits to at least 21,000 workers just from the Philippines, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, based on media and diplomatic sources.

News of these companies’ intention to pay workers’ wages has been circulating recently. While some workers have already been able to settle their debts and cash the checks they received, the majority of workers are still unable to do so because of procedural flaws or an inability to register their names with the relevant authorities.

The Saudi authorities have been charged with grave human rights violations against workers and migrants in recent years. Several human rights organisations have released reports detailing the abuses that migrants suffer at the hands of the Saudi authorities; these reports have become more frequent since the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic.

These reports contained firsthand testimonies from laborers who had been subjected to physical assault, blackmail, and detention in filthy, cramped rooms that housed thousands of migrant laborers—some of whom had already been forcibly removed from their homes in the kingdom.

According to the sources, Saudi police also made deportees sign non-disclosure agreements, which forbade them from discussing their experiences with media outlets.

The treatment of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia is a flagrant violation of international law and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as these legal frameworks guarantee everyone the right to live a decent and safe life.

The suffering of migrant workers must be put to an end, and the Saudi authorities must make sure that their salaries are paid on time. It is imperative that the relevant parties in the UN and the migrant workers’ origin countries act quickly to guarantee these migrants’ legal rights and the provision of suitable housing for them to live in.

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