JEDDAH: Government authorities in Saudi Arabia continue to intensify their labor reforms to improve the working environment and strengthen laws to protect workers’ rights and establish an attractive working environment.
Last year, the Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development launched a labor reform initiative that streamlines labor market procedures, defines precise mechanisms, improves job mobility and protects the rights of employers and employees. . In March of this year, the LRI announced further reforms by offering expatriates working in the private sector more freedoms regarding employment, including domestic helpers.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Sattam Amer Alharbi, HRDC deputy minister for work environment monitoring and development, said the ministry, alongside other authoritative bodies in the Kingdom, has ” a clear framework for dealing with labor and employment issues, combating trafficking in human beings, its challenges, safeguarding the rights of domestic workers and other matters of concern to the employer and the employee.
Trafficking in human beings is recognized as a growing international phenomenon, but a uniform definition has not yet been adopted. The United Nations defines human trafficking as a crime that trades and exploits human beings for profit. Traffickers using fraudulent employment agencies coerce and deceive their victims take advantage of some of the most vulnerable groups who seek a better life.
The United Nations adopted the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime in 2000 and entered into force in 2003. The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, is the first global legal instrument. binding with an agreed definition of trafficking in persons. . The Kingdom, alongside 173 countries, signed the protocol and has since reaffirmed its firm rejection of all forms of human trafficking and made significant efforts to eradicate it.
“Human trafficking is a global problem and targets some of the most vulnerable groups, and many do not understand the complexity of the term ‘human trafficking’. In the Kingdom, the laws are clear and the authorities continue to raise awareness of the definition of this crime through campaigns, ”said the deputy minister.
Article 3 of the Saudi Trafficking in Persons Law states that anyone who commits an act of trafficking in persons is liable to a term of imprisonment not exceeding fifteen years or a fine not exceeding 1 million SR or both.
“The Kingdom has made this a top priority and has taken concrete steps to combat human trafficking and Saudi Arabia’s leading role in safeguarding workers’ rights revolves around four main pillars. ; prevention, protection, assistance, protection through national and regional cooperation. The relevant authorities are cooperating on the basis of this strategy which is a clear indication of the Kingdom’s efforts to fight crime, ”Alharbi said.
“The role of HRDC is not just to issue work permits, employee disputes, Saudization for example, it also plays an important role in the fight against this crime. As a member of the national committee, the ministry, along with other cooperative bodies, oversaw strategies to combat this crime which is closely linked to the labor market, such as forced hiring of a worker, postponement wages of domestic workers, forced labor of minors or children. , work in difficult conditions, insufficient housing, etc. We are dealing with many issues across the spectrum that degrade their dignity, ”he added.
No less than 9 to 10 million foreign workers live and work in the Kingdom. The deputy minister stressed that the ministry has taken important steps to protect workers’ rights, such as the digitization of their contracts and the wage protection system.
“The most common offense is the continued denial or delay of pay. If a company delays the issuance of a worker’s wages, the ministry is immediately notified and steps are taken to ensure that workers’ wages are paid, “adding that other common infractions include forcing a worker to pay. license renewal fees or additional charges that the employer is responsible for that are reported to the prosecution for investigation.
The ministry’s ongoing field inspections monitor institutions and provide information to workers, as many may not know their labor rights or how to file a complaint. These inspections are essential because they allow the identification of cases of human trafficking.
The ministry has created a special division and committee to deal with the various problems of human trafficking. Their services are numerous, ranging from protection units and follow-up of cases, to the provision of health care and the hiring of lawyers to defend expatriate workers and working closely with several authorities, including foreign emissaries. .
“Many issues are still unclear for many employers and employees. Actions can get them into trouble with the law, and it is essential to understand the laws. Each case brought to our attention can go two ways; for example, if wages are delayed by a month or two, a penalty is imposed but will not go beyond. Yet, if an employee has not received it in 3-4 months, it reaches a point where it falls under the crime of human trafficking, and the case is referred to the public prosecutor’s office.
In nearly 40 years, more than 20 million expatriate workers have passed through Saudi Arabia; many can still be found living in the Kingdom today, making it their home.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began last March, government authorities in Saudi Arabia made it a priority to ensure the protection of every resident of the Kingdom, legal or illegal, providing them with free health care if needed. , by issuing tickets for those who wish. return to their country, automated renewal of exit and entry visas and offer free COVID-19 vaccine to all.