Saudi Arabia has attracted more low-paid Indian migrants over the last 25 years than any other country in the Gulf region. Every day, close to 1,000 Indian low-wage migrant workers are provided with emigration clearances to travel to Saudi Arabia. They are recruited to work in cafeterias, supermarkets, construction sites, and guest houses; they sweep streets, cook in restaurants, and serve in households as domestic workers. Together, they send close to 500 billion INR (approximately 8.2 billion USD) back to India every year. Remittances to Kerala account for nearly a third of the state’s net domestic product.
Indian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia are a part of the estimated nine million workers who make up the country’s migrant labour force, along with others from across South Asia and North Africa, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Yemen and Ethiopia.
However, Indian migrant workers can often face exploitation and deception in the pre-departure phase in India which contribute to serious human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.
Focus of the report
Amnesty International India acknowledges that governments and non-state actors in both sending and receiving countries are responsible for the protection of migrant workers. However, the particular focus of this report is what India can do as a sending country to protect migrant workers from human rights abuses, including forced labour and human trafficking.
This report examines the systemic factors in the pre-departure phase of the migration process that contribute to the exploitation and deception of migrant workers by individual brokers and recruiting agents in the state of Kerala, India. It also documents the human rights abuses migrant workers encountered during their employment and residence in Saudi Arabia, and analyses the role played by the Indian government in regulating recruiting agents and ensuring access to remedy for migrant workers. On their return, workers that Amnesty International India spoke to have found it harder to find regular jobs, and in many cases migrant workers are in debt and struggling to repay their visa loans.
Amnesty International India found that migrant workers were vulnerable not only because of the individual acts of deception and abuse by rogue visa brokers, recruiting agents and employers in Saudi Arabia; but their vulnerability also stemmed from the design and implementation of policies and laws that regulate the recruitment and employment of migrant workers in India and Saudi Arabia.