18/01/2021 Driven to despair: Male domestic workers in Saudi | Migrant-Rights.org than two weeks, they let me continue living in the quarter attached to their villa.” They did not, however, pay Dawood his monthly SR1800 salary during this period. Instead, he received a total of SR2000 for April, May, and the rst half of June combined. But Dawood doesn’t complain. “I didn’t have too many expenses the past few weeks because I had a roof over my head and food to eat but I couldn’t send enough money back home,” he says. “But I knew that as soon as things got better, I’d have job security again which is what matters.” Javed* was just 21 when he came to Jeddah 15 years ago to work as a cook and housekeeper. He has been with his current employer for the past six years. His problems began before the pandemic when his employer’s business ran into nancial trouble. “I was told last year that it is getting much worse so they will either reduce my pay or I can nd something else to do. Then, the lockdowns started and I am still living there and working but signi cantly less than before. They have only paid me for one month, SR2000, since March and are asking me to gure out if I want to nd another job or leave.”But jobs are hard to come by, and with commercial ights to Pakistan still suspended, Javed has reached out to his embassy to try to reach home but has not heard back from them yet. For 27-year-old Filip too, problems also started long before Covid-19; The Filipino migrant had been working for his Saudi employers for two years and was contracted to receive SR2500 a month. But between October 2019 and February 2020, he was paid for only two and a half months. “Because there was no work to do March onwards, I was sure that I am hardly going to get paid for the next few months. In May, I told my employers that I was quitting. For now, I have a friend [that I am staying with] who has his own car that he said I can drive as a private driver at night when he doesn’t need it which is what I have been doing for the past three weeks. If the work picks up, I will try to stay here, otherwise, I will go back. I need the consulate’s help because my passport is still with my old employers and I think they have led a ‘huroob’ (absconding charge) against me. But the consulate hasn’t been helpful yet – I am trying to nd a connection with a consulate employee because that will probably help.” “Embassies prioritise families and unmarried women because their concerns are highlighted more and if they su er, the media back home talks about it more.” Even though domestic worker laws in Saudi Arabia require that workers are paid their contracted wages at the end of every Hijri month of the Islamic calendar, it is easy for the law to be broken and go unchecked. While this may hardly be a new issue, a crisis as unprecedented as this pandemic highlights the overdependence of domestic workers on their sponsors and their vulnerability to their employer’s nancial fortunes. Harith, a 33-year-old driver of Sudanese origin working in Dammam, was asked by his employers to move out and nd another place to live a couple of weeks into the lockdown. “On my weekly o , I go visit my cousin who lives in an apartment he shares with three other people and I was told to go stay with him for some time because they were worried I would catch the virus – even though we were under complete lockdown, so I couldn’t go out any more than they could,” Harith says. “I paid SR200 a month to stay there till the lockdown was li ed a few days ago.” His employers paid him a sum total of SR1500 for this period, which lasted between late March and early June. His contracted monthly salary is SR 1700. As with most other workers, Harith’s family back home relies on the remittance he sends each month to meet their basic needs, and they were directly impacted by his employer’s decision. “I could only send a third of what I typically do back home but I am glad I got paid at least something for this time period even though I wasn’t working,” he says. “I think they felt the responsibility because they sponsor my visa and if I wasn’t able to take care of myself at all, there could potentially have been some legal consequences.” https://www.migrant-rights.org/2020/07/driven-to-despair-male-domestic-workers-in-saudi/ 3/5

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