An airport has introduced a new service that picks up female domestic workers arriving at the airport from other countries and takes them straight to their employers’ houses, which is supposed to save them from the hassle of having to go there by themselves.
The Riyadh Airports Company, which represents Saudi Arabia’s King Khalid International Airport, displayed on its official Twitter page an image showing the inside of a plane opening its door straight into a family’s home. It reads: “With the Tawsalak service, we receive your [female] domestic worker from the airplane and bring her to your house.” The service’s name can be loosely translated as “she will come to you”, and users can order the service via phone and pay a fee to have the worker brought to them.
— مطارات الرياض (@riyadhairports) August 6, 2017
As expected, the new service has elicited a mixed response from Saudi Twitter users. Some say the company saves them time and effort wasted by having to comb through the busy airport in search for their new employee, whereas others ask whether it turns domestic workers into objects.
“Are they to be treated like cargo?” one Twitter user asks, while another suggested the true purpose of the service might be to prevent new arrivals from “running away”.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia depends on hundreds of thousands of domestic workers brought from abroad, many of them from South Asian countries like Bangladesh. All imported workers in Saudi Arabia require an employer’s permission to both enter and exit the country, and it can take up to six months to arrange their visas.
Rights groups have said that foreign workers often suffer in terrible conditions, and are unable to change jobs or leave the country without the permission of their employers. There is a booming black market in runaway migrant workers who have fled their employers, but find themselves unable to leave the country due to the country’s exit visa regulation.
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