The United Nations has called on Vietnam to crack down on human trafficking after it noted the abuse of women and girls recruited from Vietnam to Saudi Arabia as domestic workers.
The case attracted attention recently after VOA recorded cases of Vietnamese female workers working in Saudi Arabia who reported being abused by their employers leading to physical and mental injuries. There was a 17-year-old girl who died after two years of working in a Middle Eastern country.
VOA’s records show how at least one labor recruitment company in Vietnam has used to lure ethnic minority girls from poor rural areas to join the workforce, including some children under the age prescribed by Vietnamese law.
“We are seeing traffickers targeting Vietnamese women and girls living in poverty, many of whom are inherently vulnerable and marginalized,” the UN human rights agency said in a statement released on November 4. “These traffickers operate with impunity.”
According to experts from the world’s largest intergovernmental organization, after signing contracts with labor recruitment companies in Vietnam, a number of girls and women have worked in Saudi Arabia and were subjected to “sexual abuse, beatings, torture, and cruel treatment” by their employers. Vietnamese women are often starved and do not receive medical treatment, and are not paid or paid less than what is specified in their contracts, experts said.
Thirteen Vietnamese female workers in Saudi Arabia told VOA in June that they were abused by their employers in different ways. These women, from many ethnic minorities from Vietnam’s Central Highlands and northern provinces, said they had completed their domestic work contracts but their employers did not buy tickets to send them home and were not paid for many working months. They also said they were abused by their owners and kept their luggage and identification documents. Among them, a woman named Dinh Thi Ca told VOA that she was “raped many times” by her employer during her two years as a domestic worker and then ran away because she could not stand the “wretched abuse.”
UN human rights experts say they have received “really alarming allegations” that some companies in Vietnam have been recruiting girls to Saudi Arabia to work as domestic workers and used their fake age on identification to hide the fact that they are minors.
The statement of UN experts on November 4 cited the case of a 15-year-old Vietnamese girl who fell ill because her owner beat her and the owner starved her and did not provide medical treatment for her. This girl died before she could board the flight back to Vietnam. Because her documents were forged by the recruitment agency, her family could not bring her body home.
VOA in early October recorded the death of H Xuan Siu, a Vietnamese girl from the Gia Rai ethnic group who went abroad to work as domestic workers in Saudi Arabia. Documents obtained by VOA show that her birth year was changed on her passport to make H Xuan Siu 1 year older when she was recruited by Vinaco in 2018 at the age of nearly 15. Her body was buried in Saudi Arabia instead of being sent home according to the wishes of the family.
According to UN statistics, between September 3 and October 28 this year, nearly 205 women, many of whom are believed to be victims of human trafficking, were repatriated to Vietnam.
UN experts call on the governments of Vietnam and Saudi Arabia to conduct an independent and objective investigation into human rights abuses committed against migrant women and girls, as well as other violations. There is the allegation that public authorities are involved in human trafficking and the UN calls for perpetrators to be prosecuted.
“We call on Saudi Arabia and Vietnam to adopt effective measures and policies to prevent and combat human trafficking and protect trafficked workers,” the UN experts said. “We also urge these governments to ensure bilateral cooperation on human rights-based labor migration, which includes an effective accountability mechanism.”
Vietnam has not yet issued an official response to the call of UN experts, but a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hanoi said last month that the ministry had directed the Vietnamese embassy in Saudi Arabia to “coordinates closely” with local authorities as well as working with labor export enterprises to “take necessary measures to protect citizens” when referring to H Xuan Siu’s case.