Sarah Jessup


One of the wealthiest countries in the Middle East, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is also one of the largest exporters of oil, and as such, one of the most influential in the region. Despite this, more than 50 per cent of the work force (nearly 6 million people) in the Saudi Arabia are migrant workers (FIDH, 2003, 3). They contribute billions of dollars each year to their home countries through remittances. With such a large population hailing from outside the Kingdom, it would seem that transnational migrants would have a larger voice in the rights and freedoms they are granted within the country. This is, however, not the case in Saudi Arabia, where non-Saudis are treated as second-class citizens and often face abuse and empty promises from their employers. The situation proves too dire for many migrant workers who enter the country. Women are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and at risk for human trafficking. It is important to examine the causes of such a large transnational migration to Saudi Arabia, the risk that migrant workers face, and what policies have helped, or in many situations hindered, the rights of migrant workers in this Middle Eastern country.

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