The Times: Maids trafficked and sold to wealthy Saudis on black market

The Times newspaper revealed shocking details on the online human in Saudi Arabia, where maids are smuggled and sold to wealthy Saudis on the black market.

The investigation showed that Haraj Market is the largest online market in Saudi Arabia for trafficking maids and illegally selling them to the rich to the highest bidders on the black market.

The investigation stated that Saudi Arabia has the third largest number of immigrants in the world, and the problem of trafficking in maids in the Kingdom has recently become closer to a humanitarian and moral crisis due to technology.

According to the investigation, the Haraj application is still operating in Saudi Arabia. It is still available on the Apple and Google Play stores despite being criticised by the UN’s Special Rapporteurs in 2020 for facilitating modern slavery.

Hundreds of domestic workers are being trafficked in a black market, where dozens of lists are published to announce migrant workers as being available for purchase or rent as maids, cleaners and nannies.

In a thinly disguised black market, dozens of listings are posted each day by Saudi nationals advertising migrant workers as available to buy or rent as maids, cleaners, nannies and drivers, the investigation said.

Last year, the Saudi government said it had “reformed” the system as part of Saudi Vision 2030, a plan heralded as part of its bid to open the country up to the world. It offered what were supposed to be greater freedoms, including allowing workers to open bank accounts, transfer jobs, and leave the country without permission.

However, the new freedoms only apply to those working in private sectors, such as oil and gas. According to the investigation, four million women and men who work as domestic servants, farmers and drivers remain restricted.

The investigation explained that prices vary according to ethnic background. For example, Filipino maids sell faster and have the highest prices, and some Haraj users describe Ugandan maids as the “most stubborn” and “unclean” and sell for the lowest amount.

Equidem, a global human rights organization with a team specialized in exposing the violations against domestic workers in Saudi Arabia, said that the problem of trafficking in maids in the Kingdom has existed for decades. Still, recently it has become “closer to a humanitarian and moral crisis due to technology.”

Mostafa Qadri, executive director of the organisation, stated: “Our grave fear, based on the investigation of The Times and our workers on the ground, is that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of such cases online human trafficking, modern-day and gender-based slavery. Harm workers in Saudi Arabia are under the radar every day. This is a massive scale – out of control.”


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