(LONDON) — Saudi Arabia’s state-run oil company Aramco apologizes for a migrant worker who was dressed as a human sanitizer dispenser at one of their facilities amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The company voiced “extreme dismay” for the incident, claiming late Tuesday that this happened without the approval of Aramco officials.
“Saudi Aramco would like to express its extreme dismay at this offensive behavior that was aimed at emphasizing the importance of sterilization,” the company said in a statement posted on Twitter — translated to English by ABC News. “This was taken without the approval of the concerned company.”
The viral images displayed a non-Saudi worker walking around the halls of an Aramco facility wearing a surgical mask and a large sanitizer dispenser, distributing sanitizer to workers and visitors.
A Saudi national first tweeted images of the migrant worker adding a title that translates to: “Gulf classism. A gift from Aramco.”
اهداء من أرامكو pic.twitter.com/FpWsUNw7mE
— هشام فقيه (@HishamFageeh) March 10, 2020
This triggered accusations of dehumanization of the worker and sparked increasing controversy on the company’s treatment of foreign employees.
The oil giant said they will take strict measures to prevent such actions from reoccurring.
“The company emphasizes its firm against compromising its values based on respect and adherence to ethics and conduct,” the Aramco statement said.
Twitter critics described the act as “modern-day slavery,” “humiliating” and “dehumanizing” — claiming the stunt was racist.
Other critics claimed that the hand-sanitizer suit was no different than human billboards found in the United States and other European countries.
“Do not apologize to us apologize to the person himself,” one critic wrote.
According to the Associated Press, Saudi Arabia closed off air and sea travel to 14 countries affected by the virus on Monday.
The country continues to monitor the spread by banning Muslim pilgrimage in Mecca and suspending flights.
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