Saudi police have rescued 16 Indonesian domestic helpers after they found them stranded in an isolated area.
The women were discovered by a Saudi national who spotted the group of women as he was driving with his family through the area, around five kilometres from a major highway.
“I was shocked by the sight of the women in this isolated area and I drive towards them,” Abdul Rahman Al Harbi said. “When we got near them, my family and I could see that they were scared and worried, especially that it was the end of the day and darkness was about to set in. One of the women was carrying a baby who we discovered was only two months old,” Abdul Rahman told local Arabic daily Al Jazirah.
He added that one of the helpers said that the helpers did not have legal residence documents and that they had been cheated by a smuggler. “She said that he had promised to drive them from the Saudi capital Riyadh to Makkah, but dropped them off in this isolated area and drove away. They did not have a means to contact anyone. I called the highway patrol and they took care of the women,” Abdul Rahman said.
Online comments condemned the smuggler and urged the police to take stringent action against him for cheating and abusing the helpers. However, some comments stressed that helpers and other foreigners should be more careful and abide strictly by the law to avoid being cheated or abused.
Traffickers use the Haj (pilgrimage) season in and around Makkah to transport domestic helpers and workers to the sacred city with promises of highly lucrative deals based on the heavy demands for their services.
Around 2.5 million Muslims, including 1.4 million foreigners, congregate in the city in western Saudi Arabia to perform Haj, the fifth and last pillar of Islam required from all physically fit and financially able Muslims at least once in their lifetime.