US e-commerce and cloud computing giant Amazon has announced that it has refunded $1.9 million to its contract workers in Saudi Arabia for illegal recruitment fees it found to have been charged. 

The retail company, which said 700 contract workers had been paid, launched an internal investigation last October following accusations of misconduct by Amnesty International. 

"The investigation uncovered other violations of company policies, including substandard living quarters, contract and wage irregularities, and delays in resolving worker complaints," Amazon said in a statement posted on its website, adding, "We identified instances where contract workers were solicited by Saudi recruitment agencies and labor supply companies to pay fees, including recruitment fees and other expenses."

"Workers worked under horrific living conditions"

Migrant workers at Amazon warehouses in Saudi Arabia face "appalling" living conditions, occupational safety risks and wage theft, the London-based human rights organization found in a report based on the testimonies of 22 Nepalese men who worked at warehouses in Riyadh and Jeddah until 2021.

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Amnesty accused recruitment agencies and two Saudi labor supply companies of deceiving migrant workers who thought they would be employed directly by Amazon and took out large loans to pay recruitment fees.

The human rights group also alleged that the labor supply companies threatened to impose high fines on workers who wanted to cut their contracts short, effectively stranding them in the Gulf kingdom.

"The remedy should also apply to the hundreds of workers contracted by Amazon who have already left the company or the country," said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty's head of economic and social justice.