Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Photo by iStock.
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Photo by iStock.

Vietnamese domestic workers in Saudi Arabia were allegedly being exploited by their employers, one has claimed. Pham Thi Dao, 46, worked as a domestic worker for more than seven months in Saudi Arabia before she returned to Vietnam in April.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, she said she worked from 5am until 1am. She was only allowed to have one meal a day at 1pm.

Statistics from the Vietnamese labour ministry indicate 7,000 of the 20,000 Vietnamese workers in Saudi Arabia are employed as domestic workers. The two countries signed a five-year agreement in 2014 that allowed more Vietnamese nationals to work in the kingdom.

Vietnamese woman Trinh Thi Linh also had her passport and documentation taken by her employer when she arrived in Riyadh. She too was given only one meal daily and had to work 18-hour shifts. She had to go on a hunger strike to get released from her employer’s household.

According to Nguyen Thi May Thuy of the Vietnam International Labour Office, the work environment for domestic workers has very limited communication to the outside world and that makes it hard for them to prove they were abused.

Furthermore, the execution of Saudi law – the kafala, which prevents domestic workers from changing jobs or even leaving Saudi Arabia without approval from employers, also plays a role.

Domestic workers’ situation has rendered them desperate to a point where they would rather be detained by police and deported than be exploited.