Saudi Arabia renews agreement with IOM to combat human trafficking

March 31, 2021

RIYADH — The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Saudi Human Rights Commission (HRC) have renewed an anti-trafficking partnership agreement, following a fruitful year of cooperation.

The renewed agreement builds upon and expands works undertaken in the first year to fight trafficking in persons.

Despite the numerous difficulties associated with COVID-19, 2020 was a productive year in which the government of Saudi Arabia, led by the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking (NCCHT), chaired by Awwad Al-Awwad, president of the HRC, trained, in cooperation with IOM, 674 key anti-trafficking stakeholders, including labor inspectors, hotline operators, shelter staff, Civil Society Organizations, Recruitment Offices, and the National Committee for Labour Committees.

This year, the joint HRC-IOM partnership will facilitate the training of more than 500 medical and border security staff in the identification and referral for the assistance of victims of trafficking, in addition to advancing techniques of case management for labor inspectors and medical staff.

Chief of Mission for IOM Bahrain, Mohamed El Zarkani said: “We are pleased to continue this important cooperation which dates back to 2019. Over the last 18 months, we have witnessed the government of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to combatting trafficking go from strength to strength, with significant reforms in key areas laying the way for meaningful change. IOM is glad, along with its sister agency the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), to maintain solid partnerships with the Kingdom in this time of growth.”

United Nations Resident Coordinator in Saudi Arabia, Nathalie Fustier, added: “Trafficking in Persons is a crime that can only be combatted through strong continued partnerships as embraced under SDG 17 and Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) Objective 23. I am pleased to see a renewal of the technical partnership between the government of Saudi Arabia and IOM in this key area of support.”

Meanwhile, the president of the HRC and the chair of the NCCHT, said: “While the Human Rights Commission and IOM celebrate another successful year of partnership, we are also renewing our commitment to continuously bolster efforts to combat trafficking in persons.”

“Partnerships with our friends at the UN and other international organizations are a crucial pillar of the Kingdom’s approach to not only enhancing its anti-trafficking response but promoting human rights generally. Whether through assessing legislation, conducting training, or raising awareness, the Saudi Human Rights Commission and its partners are making a difference.”

The collaboration between IOM and HRC has resulted in the launch of a Victim Assistance Fund (VAF) to provide resources for the safe rehabilitation of former victims of trafficking back into society. The development of standard operating procedures for the VAF, shelters, and victim hotlines through the cooperation has formalized the services available and streamlined their provision. It equally included a comprehensive assessment of shelters within KSA.

In addition to undertaking these key initial reforms, the government of Saudi Arabia has committed to enhancing ethical recruitment through the International Recruitment Integrity System (IRIS) and through conducting Corporate Responsibility in Eliminating Slavery and Trafficking (CREST) training for employers, both of which will be facilitated by IOM. This, together with an ongoing review of the Human Trafficking Law, and National Anti-Trafficking Strategy currently underway, promises to consolidate a firm foundation on which the continued efforts to counter trafficking in persons and protect victims will unfold.

The agreement, signed on March 31, 2021, will enable IOM to continue supporting the Kingdom until at least March 2022. — SG

March 31, 2021
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