Migrant workers for Amazon 'deceived and exploited' in Saudi Arabia

Migrant workers for Amazon 'deceived and exploited' in Saudi Arabia
Migrant workers at Amazon warehouses in Saudi Arabia are facing a whole host of human rights abuses, a new report from Amnesty International has revealed.
2 min read
10 October, 2023
Amnesty found that Amazon was aware of the treatment of the migrant workers but failed to protect them [Getty]

Contracted workers in Amazon warehouses in Saudi Arabia have repeatedly been exposed to human rights abuses and left trapped in the country, Amnesty International said in a damning new report Tuesday.

In a new report titled 'Don’t worry, it’s a branch of Amazon', Amnesty details how the e-commerce giant failed to stop contracted workers in Saudi Arabia from being deceived by recruitment agents and labour supply companies, cheated of their earnings, housed in appalling conditions, and prevented from finding alternative employment or leaving the Gulf kingdom.

The report is based on information provided by 22 men from Nepal who worked in Amazon warehouses in Riyadh or Jeddah between 2021 and 2023.

The men were duped into paying third party "recruitment agents" in Nepal up to $1,500, for what they thought was lucrative direct work for Amazon, the human rights group said.

Instead, they were often paying money to work for Saudi "recruitment firms", named in the report as Abdullah Fahad Al-Mutairi Support Services Co. (Al-Mutairi) and Basmah Al-Musanada Co.

The workers were then housed in squalid, unsanitary conditions, forced to work unreasonably long hours for very little money, denied sick pay, often did not receive their salaries, and had food allowances arbitrarily cut.


They had no way to contact family members, and the employment firms took advantage of Saudi Arabia’s sponsorship system known as kafala, which binds foreign workers to their employers, preventing them from switching jobs without the employer’s consent and curtailing their ability to leave the country freely.

"The workers thought they were seizing a golden opportunity with Amazon but instead ended up suffering abuses which left many traumatised. Many of those we interviewed suffered abuses so severe that they are likely to amount to human trafficking for the purposes of labour exploitation," said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Head of Economic and Social Justice.

"Amazon could have prevented and ended this appalling suffering long ago but its processes failed to protect these contracted workers in Saudi Arabia from shocking abuses," he added.

Cockburn also says the Saudi government "bears a heavy responsibility" for the mistreatment of the migrant workers.

As well as compensating workers, the report recommends Amazon "urgently investigates working practices across its facilities and supply chains, strengthens due diligence and ensures workers can speak out and be heard without fear of retaliation."

Amazon claimed that it has audited the Saudi recruitment firms in question and has hired consultants to review supply companies’ labour practices.

Amnesty said it did not receive any response from the named recruitment firms or the Saudi government on the findings.