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Niger/Saudi Arabia: Agreement Signed on Labor Recruitment

(Oct. 13, 2015) On September 30, 2015, Niger’s Minister of Labor, Employment, and Social Security, Salissou Ada, described the steps his country will take to implement an agreement between Niger and Saudi Arabia on recruitment of workers from Niger for jobs in Saudi Arabia. That agreement was concluded on June 5, at a meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland. (Seini Seydou Zakaria, Niger Signs Agreement with Saudi Arabia for Recruitment of Man Power, TAMTAMINFO.COM (Oct. 1, 2015), translated in Open Source Center online subscription database, Doc. No. AFR2015100143707377.)

Ada noted that following the signing of the manpower cooperation agreement, talks began in Niger’s capital of Niamey between the Ministry and the Saudi Manpower Solutions Company (SMASCO); those discussions were followed by meetings in Riyad, Saudi Arabia, in July. These meetings were intended to establish conditions for implementing the workpower agreement with a permanent framework to address any difficulties that arise; to consider the labor contracts that will be used, including salary, leave, and transfer provisions; and to assess working conditions in Saudi Arabia for foreign workers recruited in the past by SMASCO. (Id.)

Niger’s National Agency for the Promotion of Employment (ANPE) is handling the recruitment of the country’s workers and began operations in August of this year. Ada stated, “we have instructed ANPE to launch the process for the recruitment which concerns 1,000 house-helps, 1,000 truck drivers, 100 gardeners, 500 nurses and 100 cattlemen. … This recruitment shall be carried out on the entire national territory.” (Id.)

Among the conditions specified for the workers are that they are to be allowed free movement within Saudi Arabia, with their identity cards, and that female workers will live in secure dormitories. (Id.)

Treatment of Migrant Laborers in Saudi Arabia

There have been reports of mistreatment of foreign workers in Saudi Arabia for many years. In 2003, the International Federation of Human Rights (IFHR) issued a paper stating that in that country, “[m]igrant workers are totally at the mercy of their employers who behold [sic] their passports, limit their freedom of movement. They are prevented from changing job[s] and cannot leave the place of their work. Some do not receive their salary and are mistreated.” (Migrant Workers in Saudi Arabia, IFHR website (Mar. 2003).)

Similar concerns were expressed by the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch, which said that of the more than nine million migrant workers in manual, clerical, and service jobs, “[m]any suffer multiple abuses and labor exploitation, sometimes amounting to slavery-like conditions.” (World Report 2013: Saudi Arabia, Human Rights Watch website (last visited Oct. 9, 2015).) Human Rights Watch also noted that abuse of their nationals while working in Saudi Arabia led Indonesia, Kenya, Nepal, and the Philippines to put restrictions on such labor migration in 2011 and 2012. (Id.)

In its most recent report on human rights conditions in Saudi Arabia, the U.S. Department of State noted that employers of foreign laborers sometimes did not provide residency permits for them, which limited the ability of those workers to access government services or take grievances to court. (Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2014: Saudi Arabia, U.S. State Department website (last visited Oct. 9, 2015).)