I. Migrant Communities in Saudi Arabia
Over the last two decades, migrant workers worldwide have played an increasingly significant role in the economies of their countries of origin. Between 1980 and 2002, the annual total remittances from these workers increased from $17.7 billion to $80 billion.4 In 2001, migrants remittances to developing countries were double the amount of foreign aid and ten times higher than net private capital transfers, one study reported.5
The six states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are home to approximately ten million foreign workers, with the largest number in Saudi Arabia.6 The GCCs secretariat for economic affairs found that migrants employed in its member states remitted $27 billion to their homes countries in 2002.7 Sixty percent of that total $16 billion came from migrant workers in Saudi Arabia.8
There were seven million expatriates in the kingdom, about one-third of the total population, Dr. Ali al-Namlah, Saudi Arabias then-long-serving minister of labor and social affairs, told Human Rights Watch in January 2003.9 He added that 5.5 million of the total number of foreigners were workers, and the remainder their dependents. New statistics were disclosed in May 2004, indicating an even higher number of expatriates. According to labor minister Dr. Ghazi al-Ghosaibi, there were 8.8 million foreigners in the kingdom representing almost 50 percent of the indigenous population.10
The statistics department of the ministry of economy and planning reported in 2004 that non-Saudis accounted for 67 percent of the kingdoms labor force.11 Foreigners held 90 to 95 percent of the private sector jobs, Dr. Namlah told Human Rights Watch He described Saudi Arabia as a land of opportunity for qualified low-wage workers. Indeed, throughout the GCC states, jobs created in the private sector other than in the oil industry typically require only low skills and pay low wages.12
The largest expatriate communities in Saudi Arabia include one million to 1.5 million people each from Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, and another 900,000 each from Egypt, Sudan, and the Philippines. The wages that these and other migrant workers send home places Saudi Arabia second only to the United States as the source of the largest amount of remittance payments in the world.13 Remittances from Saudi Arabia totaled some 285.3 billion riyals about U.S. $76 billion in the five-year period between 1995 and 1999.14 The government has repeatedly stated its intention to reduce the number of foreign workers in the kingdom and replace them with hundreds of thousands of unemployed Saudis, a process termed Saudiization of the labor force.15
The kingdom is the number one destination for migrants from Bangladesh. The annual remittances of Bangladeshis working abroad total almost $3 billion, with $1.7 billion of the total from Saudi Arabia alone.16 Many of the one million to 1.5 million Bangladeshi migrants in the kingdom are illiterate, and they pay exorbitant fees to manpower recruiting agencies to obtain employment visas. The average fee ranges from $2,000 to $2,500, according to a Bangladesh-born economist who worked in Saudi Arabia until 2003 and provided assistance to exploited migrant workers there.17 The Saudi government indicated in October 2003 that it would hire additional workers from Bangladesh, whose salaries are among the lowest in the kingdom.18 The same month, Bangladeshs ambassador in Riyadh, S.K. Sharjil Hassan, reported that Bangladeshi housemaids have begun arriving in Saudi Arabia for the first time.19 This legal migration of women from Bangladesh will supplement their informal movement to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states that has long been recognized.20
Indian workers abroad send approximately $3.5 billion home in remittances each year, and the largest Indian expatriate community in the world is in Saudi Arabia. According to the Indian embassy in Riyadh, 3.5 million Indians are employed in the Gulf states, including about 1.5 million in Saudi Arabia, of whom 30 percent are Muslim. Eighty-five percent of Indians in the kingdom work in unskilled or blue-collar jobs, although the embassy reported that number of Indians with white-collar jobs is expanding. Indian migrants also pay huge sums to manpower recruiters for even the most menial jobs in Saudi Arabia, with 100,000 rupees about $2,209 the average fee for an employment visa.21
Since the oil boom years of 1970s, Saudi Arabia has also been the leading employer of Pakistani migrant workers, whose remittances remain a major source of foreign exchange as Pakistans poverty rate climbs.22 Of the 217,025 Pakistanis who traveled abroad for employment between November 2002 and October 2003, the destination of 62 percent of them was Saudi Arabia.23 Pakistans overseas workers returned $4.19 billion in remittances in the fiscal year that ended in June 2003.24 Total remittances are believed to be higher than officially reported because some Pakistani migrants bypass commercial banks in favor of informal but well-developed (hundi) networks.25
There are some 7.6 million Filipinos working abroad, and their remittances from January to October 2003 reportedly totaled U.S. $6.9 billion, according to statistics that the Philippines Central Bank reported.26 Over 900,000 were working in Saudi Arabia, according to the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs.27
There are at least 850,000 workers from Indonesia and Sri Lanka in Saudi Arabia. The overwhelming majority of them are women and, in some cases, girls whose dates of birth have been falsified.28 Of the 500,000 Indonesian migrants in the kingdom, over 90 percent are women domestic workers, the labor attaché at the Indonesian embassy in Riyadh, Muhammad Sugiarto, reported.29 Migrant rights and womens rights organizations in Jakarta were stunned and outraged when Saudi authorities secretly beheaded an Indonesian domestic worker, Warni Samiran Audi, in June 2000.30 But the flow of women continued: by 2003, Indonesian workers were leaving for Saudi Arabia at the rate of 19,000 a month.31
Sri Lankan migrants, the majority of whom work in the Middle East, send home an estimated $1.2 billion annually, said the countrys minister of employment and labor, Mahinda Samara-Singhe, in December 2002. He also reported that there were 350,000 Sri Lankan workers in Saudi Arabia, 160,000 in the United Arab Emirates, 80,000 in Lebanon, 40,000 each in Kuwait and Oman, and 30,000 each in Qatar and Jordan.32 The proportion of Sri Lankan migrants who are women has grown steadily, from 33 percent of the total in 1986 to 65 percent by 1999.33 The overwhelming majority of Sri Lankan women migrants in the Middle East region are employed as domestic workers.34
The Governments Legal Obligations
The government of Saudi Arabia has legal obligations to protect everyone in the kingdom, citizens and foreigners alike, from illegal practices, discrimination, and human rights abuses such as arbitrary arrest, prolonged incommunicado detention without charge, torture, and unfair trials. The Basic Law, adopted in 1992 by royal decree, provides for protection of human rights and the security of Saudi citizens and foreign residents.35
The rights guaranteed in the Basic Law are supplemented by additional rights that Saudi Arabia has pledged to uphold as a state party to international human rights treaties. These include the Slavery Convention; the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The provisions of these treaties are part of the kingdoms domestic law, and therefore can be invoked before sharia courts and other judicial and administrative bodies.
Saudi Arabia is not a party to two bedrock human rights treaties, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The government informed a United Nations committee in March 2003 that it would soon accede to both treaties.36
The Framework of Discrimination
Asian migrant rights activists commented bitterly to Human Rights Watch about racial discrimination in Saudi Arabia. Noting that slavery was not abolished there until 1962, they argued that its legacy continues to influence the perception and treatment of migrant workers. Saudi Arabia is a state party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), but the government has done little to bring practical meaning to the treatys guarantees. As part of legal obligations under this treaty, the government is required to assure to everyone within its jurisdiction effective protection and remedies, through the competent national tribunals and other State institutions, against any acts of racial discrimination which violate his human rights and fundamental freedoms contrary to this Convention, as well as the right to seek from such tribunals just and adequate reparation or satisfaction for any damage suffered as a result of such discrimination.37
Human Rights Watch is unaware of how the government has made this treaty obligation operational for migrant workers in the kingdom. For example, the governments report to the United Nations about its compliance with the treaty made no mention whatsoever of the millions of foreign workers and their families living in the kingdom. In March 2003, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which reviewed the governments report, noted the high proportion of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia,38 and requested statistics disaggregated by migrants national origin, which would provided a better understanding of the economic and social standing of non-citizens in Saudi Arabia.39
The committee expressed concern about allegations of substantial prejudice against migrant workers, in particular those coming from Asia and Africa, and asked the government to provide information about this issue, particularly the situation of women migrant workers in the kingdom.40 The committee also commented about the disproportionate number of foreigners facing the death penalty and their lack of legal assistance, and urged the government to provide the information about specific cases that the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, and arbitrary executions had requested.41
The committee stated that the governments report contained insufficient information on how the Convention is applied in practice, and on what factors and difficulties affect its full implementation. It added that the mere statement of the general principle of non-discrimination in the kingdoms Basic Law and other regulations is not a sufficient response to the requirements of the Convention. The committee recommended that the government enact legislation that specifically prohibits racial discrimination and develop mechanisms to monitor the implementation of the law.
Intolerance of religious diversity in Saudi Arabia has been well documented elsewhere.42 Migrant workers who are not Muslims but are religiously observant must adjust to the absence of houses of worship for their religious faiths, and refrain from public display of religious symbols such as Christian crosses or the tilaka the distinctive holy spot that many Hindus apply on the forehead between the eyes. Private worship in community with others must always proceed cautiously and not be conspicuous. Some migrants described to us how they were forced to arrive in very small numbers over long periods of time to attend private religious services in designated private places so as not to arouse the suspicion of Saudi citizens or the feared religious police.43
Saudi authorities continue to arrest foreigners, including Muslims, for peaceful private religious practice. Followers of Sufi orders continue to face harassment because Sufism, with its individualized and mystical approach to Islam, is perceived as a sharp departure from strict Islamic orthodoxy.44 In September 2003, the daily al-Madinah reported that the religious police in Sakaka, acting on a complaint, raided a house at 11 p.m. and arrested sixteen migrant workers for allegedly practicing Sufism. According to the newspaper, the police arrested the leader of the group and confiscated a picture of him which his supporters venerated. The group has lived in the area for several years and has been in the habit of distributing Sufi writings among the expatriate community. During the raid police reportedly seized magazines, videocassettes, and other materials.45 More recently, the religious police in Mecca reportedly arrested over 200 migrant workers from Bangladesh and Burma for attending a party in celebration of St. Valentines Day, where alcohol was allegedly consumed. Following the arrests, the kingdoms highest religious authority, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Sheikh, was quoted as saying: What these workers did in a holy place by celebrating and singing and drinking alcohol is a very grave sin. He remarked that Valentines Day is an infidel tradition that has no place in Islam.46
Human Rights Watch was informed that discrimination against Hindus -- often disparaged as polytheists by orthodox Sunni Muslim clerics and their followers -- has eased somewhat. A prominent Indian Hindu who lived for many years in Saudi Arabia told us that advertisements for jobs in the kingdom, placed in Indian newspapers in 1996 and 1997, requested applications from Muslims and Christians only. This practice, she said, was discontinued. Hindus do not require temple visits to practice daily religious rites, although such rites require an image of a religious deity. Until about ten years ago, according to this source, the handbags of Hindu women were opened at the airport and religious images and idols were confiscated. The seizure of Hindu prayer books at the airport has stopped, the source added. In a subtle and quiet way, she concluded, some of the harsher aspects are being softened, and there has been tremendous change at the airports.47
The rights of women migrant workers are compromised by the prevailing gender segregation in the kingdom, restrictions on freedom of expression (particularly dress codes) and freedom of movement, and gender inequality in the justice system. The tolerance of domestic violence in Saudi households sets the stage for physical and sexual abuse of migrant women domestic workers.48 The forced confinement that Saudi employers impose upon many low-paid women workers can be viewed as an extreme extension of the power that men can and do wield over the movement of Saudi women under law and social custom. Women migrants, like their Saudi counterparts, face a system of Islamic jurisprudence under which womens testimony carries half the weight of the testimony of men. Victims of sexual violence, including rape, have little prospect of holding their assailants accountable in sharia courts.
Compensation for Unnatural Deaths: Gender and Religious Discrimination
Under the Islamic jurisprudence prevailing in Saudi Arabia, the legal heirs of migrant workers face discrimination based on gender and religion when they seek compensation for murder and accidental death of loved ones in incidents such as road accidents.49 The kingdoms National Committee for Traffic Safety reported that 4,848 people were killed and another 32,361 injured in traffic accidents in 2000.50 To our knowledge, the government has not publicly reported the number of foreigners included in these statistics, but it is likely that they represent a sizeable proportion. For example, of the eighty-one Sri Lankan migrants who died in 2002 in Saudi Arabia, 32 percent of them were killed in road accidents.51
During our research for this report, we heard numerous complaints about the lack of information about cases of unnatural death of migrant workers and delays in the repatriation of their remains. To cite one recent example, the family of Manuel Abance -- a Filipino father of four young children who had been employed in the kingdom since 1999 -- learned that he was killed in a road accident in October 2003. According to Migrante International, the migrant rights nongovernmental organization in the Philippines, Manuel was hit by a car that a Saudi national was driving, and his body was dragged for several meters. The group told Human Rights Watch that the police did not interview the Filipino eyewitness who was with Manuel when the accident occurred, and the family did not know if a police report was filed. Everything is vague, a Migrante activist said. She added that it took one month for Manuels remains to be repatriated, and that his wallet and other personal possessions were not returned.52 Police investigations and reports in accident cases are important because this is how individual responsibility for the death is determined, and sharia court judges use these reports to calculate compensation awards for the legal heirs of the victims.53
The compensation provided in cases of unnatural deaths is determined by the gender and religion of the victim. Cases involving Muslim men receive the full compensation amount, while those involving Christian and Jewish men receive half of the amount. According to the U.S. government, legal heirs of victims who practiced polytheistic religions such as Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains receive one-sixteenth of the total compensation amount.54 The Consulate General of India in Jeddah has reported that in cases of accidental death or murder, the maximum amount of financial compensation generally admissible is 100,000 riyals about $26,690-- for male Muslims; 50,000 riyals for male Christians and Jews; and 6,666.66 riyals about $1,778 -- for Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and other polytheistic faiths. Compensation provided to the heirs of women victims of unnatural death receive fifty percent less than their male counterparts in each religious category.55
 Devesh Kapur and John McHale, Migrations New Payoff, Foreign Policy, November 1, 2003.
 Deficiencies in demographic and labor statistics of the GCC states should be noted. A recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) study reported: Labor statistics in GCC countries are scant and vary significantly across countries in terms of coverage, quality, measurement, and timeliness. In addition, the data available are incomplete because information on military and security personnel is excluded. Statistics on unemployment are also not regularly collected. Ugo Fasano and Rishi Goyal, Emerging Strains in GCC Labor Markets, IMF Working Paper, WP/04/71, April 2004. One illustration is the discrepancy between the statistics provided to Human Rights Watch in January 2003 by Saudi Arabias minister of labor and social affairs about the kingdoms migrant population (33 pecent of the total population), and those issued by the kingdoms Central Department of Statistics, which put the non-Saudi population in mid-2002 at 25.8 percent of the total. See Saudi Arabia General Investment Authority, Population and Labor Force, www.sagia.gov.sa (retrieved January 20, 2004).
 Majed Al-Bassam, $16b Remittances, Arab News, March 26, 2004.
 Migrants in the United Arab Emirates accounted for 16 percent of the total -- $4 billion. Ibid.
 Human Rights Watch interview, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 25, 2003. In March 2004, the council of ministers divided the ministry of labor and social affairs into two separate ministries; as of this writing, Dr. Namlah headed the ministry of social affairs and Dr. Ghazi al-Gosaibi served as the newly appointed minister of labor.
 Expatriates Number 8.8m, Arab News, May 25, 2004.
 According to Fasano and Goyal, most new jobs in the GCC area have been primarily created in the relatively low-skill and low-wage sectors of the private non-oil economy, which continues to have access to a plentiful supply of expatriate workers at internationally competitive salaries.
 In 2001, according to the International Monetary Fund Balance of Payments Yearbook, remittances from the U.S. totaled $28.4 billion; Saudi Arabia was in second place, with $15.1 billion, followed by Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland. See Dilip Ratha, Workers Remittances: An Important and Stable Source of External Development Finance, Global Development Finance 2003, World Bank, 2003.
 Nadim Kawach, Expats remit $76b during Saudi five-year plan period, Gulf News, September 5, 2003.
 Saudi Arabias Seventh Five-Year Development Plan, for example, envisioned the replacement of some 466,600 foreign workers with Saudi citizens between 2000 and 2005.
 M. Ghazanfar Ali Khan, More Workers to Be Hired From Bangladesh, Arab News, October 29, 2003.
 Human Rights Watch interview, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 23, 2003.
 There are also skilled Bangladeshis working in Saudi Arabia as architects, doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, and in hotel management. Saudi Arabia to recruit more manpower from Bangladesh, The Daily Star (Dhaka), October 26, 2003.
 M. Ghazanfar Ali Khan, More Workers to be Hired from Bangladesh, Arab News, October 23, 1003.
 The Asian Development Bank noted in 2001 that there was a sizeable number of undocumented Bangladeshi migrant women in the Gulf states and Southeast Asia. See Women in Bangladesh, Country Briefing Paper, August 2001.
 Interview with Talmiz Ahmad, then-Ambassador of India, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 25, 2003.
 Export of manpower occupies a central place in the economic development of Pakistan. It is the number two source of foreign exchange earnings for the country. In year (2002-2003) this figure touched US$ 4.28 billion .[B]etween the years 1973-2002, 3.1 million workers in various categories left abroad from Pakistan for foreign employment, mostly in Gulf countries. Rashid Ahmed Mughal, Migration: overseas employment and povery alleviation, Business and Finance Review (Jang Group, Pakistan), February 9, 2004, http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/feb2004-weekly/busrev-09-02-2004/p6.htm (retrieved February 10, 2004).
 These statistics were reported by Pakistans federal minister for labor, manpower, and overseas Pakistanis, Mian Abdus Sattar Leleka. See Muhammad Anis, 217,025 sent abroad for jobs in one year: Laleka, The News, November 15, 2003.
 Mohiuddin Aazim, BD trying to catch up with Pakistan: Remittances, Dawn, February 10, 2004.
 Hundi channels are generally more efficient than the formal banking system. In a typical hundi transaction, the migrant worker transfers a sum in foreign currency to an agent overseas under the agreement that the local moneychanger of that agent transfers the rupee equivalent at an agreed exchange rate to the migrants family or nominee .Hundi dealers offer door-to-door and same day service, which is particularly welcome in remote areas. Zulfiqar Hyder, Workers Remittances, Resident FCAs and Kerb Premium: A Cointegration Analysis, State Bank of Pakistan Working Papers No. 2/02, June 2002.
 Remittances from Philippine Migrant Workers Up 4.8%, Jan-Nov, Asia Pulse, January 16, 2004.
 Department of Foreign Affairs, RP Lauds Saudi Government for Foiling Terror Attacks; To Pursue Benefits Owed to Filipina Bombing Victim, Press Release No. 677-03, November 27, 2003.
 See Chapter IV for information about a fifteen-year-old Indonesian girl who was reportedly brutalized by her Saudi employers.
 Saeed Albayyat, Indonesia to ban maids for Kingdom, Saudi Gazette, February 23, 2003.
 According to the Saudi interior ministry, Warni Samiran Audi was sentenced to death for killing Fatima Ibrahim al-Firaydan, the wife of her employer. She allegedly beat the woman on her head with an iron pipe after an argument. The beheading of this domestic worker brought to sixty the number of reported executions in Saudi Arabia that year. Associated Press, Indonesian maid beheaded in Saudi Arabia, June 19, 2000.
 Indonesian Migrant Workers Hit by Saudi Arabian Visa Cuts, Asia Pulse, April 17, 2003.
 Sunita Menon, Lanka plans money transfer strategy, Gulf News, December 22, 2002.
 International Organization for Migration, IOM Calls for an End to Violence Against Migrant Women and the Trafficking of Women and Children into Sexual Bondage, Press Release, No. 858, March 7, 2003. Also see Asian Development Bank, Women in Sri Lanka, Country Briefing Paper, May 1999.
 Centre for Womens Research (Colombo), Sri Lanka Shadow Report on the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, December 2001.
 Article 26 of the Basic Law states: The State shall protect human rights in accordance with Islamic Shariah. Article 37 states: The state shall ensure the security of all its citizens and expatriates living within its domains. No individual shall be detained, imprisoned or have his actions restricted except under the provisions of the law. Article 43 states: The majlis of the King and the maglis of the Crown Prince shall be open to all citizens and to anyone who may have a complaint or a grievance. Every individual shall have the right to communicate with public authorities regarding any topic he may wish to discuss.
 Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Concluding Observations: Saudi Arabia, 21/03/2003, paragraph 8, CERD/C/62/CO/8. (Concluding Observations/Comments), March 20, 2003 [hereinafter CERD report].
 Article 6.
 CERD report, Paragraph 16.
 CERD report, Paragraph 20.
 CERD report, Paragraph 17.
 CERD report, Paragraph 18.
 See, for example, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Annual Report, May 2004, http://www.uscirf.gov/reports/12May04/finalReport.php3.
 The religious police in Saudi Arabia, officially known as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, is the government-funded entity that monitors public behavior, enforcing its own version of religious orthodoxy. Its personnel reportedly numbering 4,500 in Riyadh and its thirteen other offices throughout the kingdom -- interact with the public, Saudis and foreigners alike, in a manner that some victims view as harassment. The religious police force businesses to close during daily prayers; admonishmen to go to the mosque during prayer times; confront and sometimes insult in a derogatory manner women for inappropriate dress, particularly for not being full-face veiled; and strive to maintain strict segregation of the sexes, including harassment and sometimes detention of persons in private company who are not married or related by blood. The commission strives to rectify evil deeds with the help of preventive methods as much as possible .Our men are present everywhere. They are not denied admission to any place, said its head, Sheikh Ibrahim ibn Abdullah ibn Ghaith. See No informers or women employed by anti-vice body, Arab News, November 2, 2002.
 The historical roots of Sufism are typically traced back to the earliest days of Islam. Strictly orthodox Muslims view the religious and esoteric practices of the Sufi orders as prohibited innovations under Islam.
 16 Expats Arrested for Practicing Sufism, Arab News, September 29, 2003, citing al-Madinah.
 Agence France-Presse, Religious police arrest 200 Asians for Valentines party at Mecca holy site, February 17, 2004.
 Human Rigths Watch interview, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 25, 2003.
 The U.S. State Department reported in 2004 that physical spousal abuse and violence against women appeared to be common problems. SeeBureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2003, February 25, 2004.
 It is widely recognized that Saudi Arabias roads and highways are dangerous. According to the U.S. State Department: Traffic accidents are a significant hazard in Saudi Arabia. Driving habits are generally poor, and accidents involving vehicles driven by minors are not uncommon. In the event of a traffic accident resulting in personal injury, all persons involved (if not in the hospital) may be taken to the local police station. Drivers are likely to be held for several days until responsibility is determined and any reparations paid. In many cases, all drivers are held in custody regardless of fault. Bureau of Consular Affairs, Consular Information Sheet, Saudi Arabia, current as of February 24, 2004.
 Saudi Press Agency, Statistics of road accidents in Saudi Arabia, February 27, 2002.
 Of the eight-one deaths, forty-three reportedly died of natural causes, seven were reported as suicides, and twenty-six were killed in road accidents. Asia Pacific Migration Research Network, Sri Lanka, Recent Events, 2003.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Malett Balaoro, Quezon City, Philippines, December 15, 2003.
 See U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, International Religious Freedom Report for 2003, December 18, 2003.
Embassy of India, Riyadh, Settlement of Death Compensation Claims, in Death Cases of Indian Nationals, www.cgijeddah.com/deathbooklet.htm