Workers in an Amazon warehouse seen through a glass wall bearing the company's name and logo

Saudi Arabia: Amazon reimburses workers for unlawful fees following Amnesty International report highlighting abuses

Responding to Amazon’s announcement today that the company has paid US$1.9 million to reimburse more than 700 workers contracted to its operations in Saudi Arabia, following an Amnesty International report in October 2023, Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Head of Economic and Social Justice, said:

“Amazon’s reimbursement of unlawful recruitment fees is a vital step towards providing remedy for hundreds of migrant workers who suffered a range of severe labour abuses while contracted to the company in Saudi Arabia. We know from workers how important these payments are to rebuilding their lives. While these payments will provide some immediate relief to workers who have often had to take on significant debts for the opportunity to work for Amazon, they must go hand in hand with much stricter measures to ensure such shocking abuses – which likely amounted to human trafficking in some cases – can never happen again.

    Amazon’s reimbursement of unlawful recruitment fees is a vital step towards providing remedy for hundreds of migrant workers who suffered a range of severe labour abuses while contracted to the company in Saudi Arabia.

Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Head of Economic and Social Justice

“With better due diligence, and by responding effectively to complaints from workers, Amazon could have prevented these abuses occurring in the first place. Remedy should be extended to hundreds of other workers contracted by Amazon who have already left the company or country, yet are likely to have faced similar abuses including deception, wage theft, and hefty recruitment fees. They too deserve justice and compensation.”

When companies fail to take their human rights responsibilities seriously, it is workers who pay the price.

Steve Cockburn

“Unfortunately, the experience of workers at Amazon is far from unique given the high risk of exploitation under Saudi Arabia’s Kafala labour system. This case must serve as a lesson to other companies operating in the country to take every measure to prevent abuses and to remedy them when they do occur. When companies fail to take their human rights responsibilities seriously, it is workers who pay the price.”

Background

In October 2023, Amnesty International published the report Don’t worry, it’s a branch of Amazon. It documents how contracted workers in Amazon warehouses in Saudi Arabia were 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 country. Many were highly likely victims of human trafficking. The report shows how Amazon failed to prevent these human rights abuses, despite receiving complaints directly from workers about their treatment over a lengthy period of time.