Darren Staples Agence France-Presse Amnesty International reports the case of 22 Nepalese contract workers at Amazon, manipulated by recruitment companies, who were “deprived of their income, housed in appalling conditions and prevented from finding other employment or leaving the country”. Pictured is a company warehouse in England. (Illustrative photo)
Saudi Arabia said Thursday it had opened an investigation into the treatment of workers in Amazon warehouses, before an Amnesty International report revealed serious abuses.
“The alarming facts mentioned in this report are already the subject of an ongoing investigation,” said the Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, in a press release sent to AFP.
“Any form of labor abuse or exploitation is unacceptable,” he added.
Amnesty International published a report on Tuesday based on the testimony of 22 Nepalis who worked in the warehouses of the American online distribution giant in Saudi Arabia, between 2021 and 2023.
These contract workers, manipulated by recruitment companies, were “deprived of their income, housed in appalling conditions and prevented from finding other employment or leaving the country”, denounced the human rights NGO .
Some cases could “akin to human trafficking,” she said, pointing out that the “kafala” sponsorship system imposed on foreign employees in the Gulf kingdom limits their ability to change jobs or leave the country.
The oil monarchy has a population of 32.2 million, including some 13.4 million foreigners, mostly from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Yemen and Egypt.
Asian labor is often employed in manual labor and services.
The Saudi authorities have “taken strict measures to combat all forms of human trafficking internationally,” notably by ratifying the protocol of the International Labor Organization against forced labor, the ministry further assured.
They have “also put in place comprehensive legislation and policies to prevent, investigate and prosecute forced labor. violations,” he added.
According to him, recruitment agents and private employers “must adhere to clear and firmly enforced laws to ensure the fair treatment and well-being of all employees.”
For its part, Amazon told AFP it was working with its “third-party supplier” to improve housing conditions and reimburse “unpaid salaries or recruitment fees paid by workers ”.