Saudi Arabia Abolishes "Huroob" Status

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May 14 2013

Migrant-Rights.org applauds Saudi Arabia's impending abolition of "Huroob" violations. Previously, sponsors could register migrants as “huroob” or runaways, which warranted their detainment and deportation. Migrants reported as “huroob” may also face indeterminate re-entry bans and contend with frozen bank accounts. Saudi officials recently announced that sponsors can no longer register such cases and that all current cases will be canceled. This move represents significant progress is correcting the power imbalance between sponsors and migrant workers, as employers often threaten to mark employees as “huroob” to curb complaints.

Additionally, migrants who work for firms in “red” Nitaqat zones (non-compliant firms) and hold expired iqamas (resident permits) may transfer their sponsorship without first renewing their iqamas. Migrants will no longer need their passports to transfer from red Nitaqat firms. These amendments may limit some mechanisms of forced labor, whereby sponsors withhold the documents necessary to transfer sponsorship. However, individual sponsors may still exploit transfers by illegally charging migrant workers or prospective sponsors.

Unfortunately, Saudi officials have not announced a timeline for these reforms. This ambiguity is concerning as in the past, Saudi has failed to implement similar commitments meant to provide migrants with greater employment mobility. For example, 2011 provisions to permit migrant workers to exchange sponsorship without notifying their sponsors in certain circumstances were never realized. Migrant Rights urges Saudi authorities to ensure the speedy enforcement of these new measures and will monitor their implementation in the coming months.

Migrant Rights also encourages Ministry of Labor officials to adopt more coherent communication conventions in matters relating to Nitaqat. Though the Huroob reform is positive, constantly fluctuating regulations confuses all stakeholders and obstruct compliance.

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East