Inaugural Umrah and Ziyarah Forum focuses on innovative ways to enhance pilgrim experience

Inaugural Umrah and Ziyarah Forum focuses on innovative ways to enhance pilgrim experience
Inaugural Umrah and Ziyarah Forum focuses on innovative ways to enhance pilgrim experience

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: Experts discussed Saudi Arabia’s latest efforts to combat human trafficking at an event in Riyadh on Wednesday.

The symposium, titled “Enhancing Cooperation in Combating Trafficking in Persons,” drew attendees from a variety of fields to review anti-human trafficking policies.

It also raised awareness of common patterns and recent developments in human trafficking, along with effective means of protection and prevention.

“At the Saudi National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, we aim to exchange experiences and foster coordination to combat human trafficking, prevent its occurrence, reduce its impact on victims and protect them,” said Hala Al-Tuwaijri, president of the Human Rights Commission.

During a panel discussion titled “Normative and International Framework to Combat Trafficking in Persons,” Al-Tuwaijri warned that crises and conflicts around the world create a fertile environment for traffickers to exploit the vulnerable.

Human trafficking encompasses sex trafficking, forced labor and domestic servitude, often involving women and children.

Al-Tuwaijri said that human trafficking transcends borders. By working together across countries and regions, the international community can protect the vulnerable and uphold human rights, he added.

Per Saudi law, those found guilty of human trafficking in the Kingdom face up to 15 years’ imprisonment, fines of up to SR1 million ($266,000), or both.

Al-Tuwaijri highlighted the importance of bolstering international efforts to combat human trafficking through comprehensive legislation and enhanced case detection.

In 2023, anti-human trafficking organizations in the Kingdom conducted 41 training programs, aiming to raise awareness of vulnerabilities to trafficking within migrant communities. The training covered victim identification, best practices in screening vulnerable populations in detention centers, trauma-informed and victim-centered interviewing and assistance techniques, search procedures, evidence collection and criminal investigative processes during trafficking trials.

Abdullah Abu Thunin, vice minister of human resources and social development, said that significant efforts are being made in the Saudi labor market to combat human trafficking.

The ministry is activating a national plan to combat human trafficking, he added. The strategy is based on four main pillars: Prevention, protection and assistance, prosecution, and national, regional and international cooperation.

Abu Thunin said that the ministry has launched several programs to target human trafficking, including one scheme to improve contractual relationships.

“Through the authenticated contracts program and the wage protection program, more than 7 million contracts were signed by employees, obligating employers to pay workers’ wages,” he added.

The Friendly Settlement for Labor Disputes program also achieved a 77 percent reconciliation rate in labor disputes.

Abu Thunin said that compliance rates have increased in the Kingdom since the programs were launched.

Many government agencies, including the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, the Public Prosecution, the Human Rights Commission and the National Committee to Combat Trafficking, took part in the Riyadh symposium.

Numerous international organizations also attended, including the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the UN Resident Coordinator Office.

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