Saudi's Aramco apologises for using migrant worker as human hand sanitizer after social media backlash

Following the social media backlash, the Saudi-based oil firm Aramco apologised for the offensive behaviour

Amid the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak, health experts all over the world have urged the public to wash their hands frequently and use alcohol-based sanitizers to remain hygienic. As there exists no medicine or vaccine to prevent the coronavirus infection, this is considered the most effective way to avoid the infection.

Now, the Saudi Arabia-based oil firm Aramco has made headlines for wrong reasons after some photos of a worker there surfaced online. In the pictures that have gone viral, a migrant worker wearing a surgical mask is seen dressed up as a human sanitizer with a large dispenser attached to his body. He was spotted distributing sanitizers to all the workers and visitors at one of the facilities of the firm. Apparently, it was done to emphasise the importance of sterilisation in the wake of the virus outbreak.

A migrant worker was forced to dress up like a human sanitizer at a Saudi oil firm
The artwork by Kuwait-based cartoonist Abdul-Rahman Buland shows the migrant worker, who was forced to dress up like a human sanitizer at a Saudi oil firm. Abdul-Rahman Buland/Twitter

The photos were initially shared by a Saudi national Hisham Fageeh, who tweeted with the caption "Gulf classism. A gift from Aramco" (translated from Arabic).

The company's response

Following the social media backlash, the state-run oil company Aramco apologised for the offensive behaviour and claimed it to have happened without the approval of the firm's officials. However, the incident has sparked controversy on the way the company treats its foreign employees.

"Referring to the photos circulated in the social media of a colleague, wearing a kind of sterilization package in one of its facilities, # Saudi Aramco would like to express its strong dissatisfaction with this abusive behavior in which I want to emphasize the importance of sterilization, without the approval of the company concerned. The company immediately stopped this act and took drastic measures to prevent it from happening again. The company emphasizes its firm against compromising its values ​​based on respect and adherence to ethics and conduct," reads the translated tweet by Aramco posted on Wednesday, March 11, 2020.

Even after the company's apology on the incident, netizens describe the humiliating act as modern-day slavery and a racist stunt. "Do not apologize to us, apologize to the person himself," one user on Twitter wrote.

Coronavirus in Saudi Arabia

According to the latest reports, a total of 45 coronavirus cases have been reported so far from Saudi Arabia. The health department has confirmed that while one of them has recovered, the rest of the cases are currently in isolation.

Related topics : Coronavirus