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U.S. Embassy Contractors in Saudi Arabia Suspected of Human Trafficking

5 years ago
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Federal inspectors have uncovered "anecdotal evidence" of human trafficking by local contractors hiring workers at the U.S. embassy in Saudi Arabia, according to an investigative report published Wednesday.

The investigation by The Center for Public Integrity uncovered a January letter from the State Department Inspector General to Congress that said there was reason to believe some workers at the Riyadh embassy were brought in illegally from out of the country to perform low-skill jobs.

The letter said behavior such as withholding passports, garnishing wages, and summary dismissal of employees working for embassy contractors could be evidence of human trafficking.

Human trafficking is an ongoing problem in Saudi Arabia, according to Public Integrity:

Saudi Arabia has long been criticized by the U.S. government and civil rights groups for labor trafficking. Men and women from South and Southeast Asia, as well as East Africa, travel to the kingdom to work as low-skilled laborers and some "face conditions indicative of involuntary servitude," according to the State Department's annual anti-human trafficking report last year. The Saudi government shows no "significant political commitment" to addressing involuntary servitude, the anti-trafficking report notes, "Indeed, an official responsible for such matters has denied that trafficking in persons takes place in Saudi Arabia." The Saudi embassy did not respond to e-mails requesting comment.

State Department inspectors also hinted at other instances of trafficking in the region. "Other inspections have yielded similar findings" at other U.S. embassies in the Middle East, the letter said.

Read the full Public Integrity report here.

Filed Under: Investigations

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