Repugnant human trafficking in Oman

Marcu 31 (DPnet).– Oman serves as both a destination and a transit country for men and women, many of whom are victims of human trafficking, particularly under circumstances resembling forced labor. The sultanate is home to at least 130,000 migrant female domestic workers; perhaps many more. Most are from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Malawi, Ethiopia, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, and the Philippines.

The majority of these migrants, who are from South and Southeast Asia and Africa, come to Oman voluntarily and hope to find work as low-skilled laborers in the nation's service sectors, construction, or agricultural industries. Subsequently, some of them experience circumstances that are typical of forced labor, including denial of passports and other travel restrictions, nonpayment of wages, extended workdays without breaks or food, intimidation, and physical and/or sexual assault. 

Because of Oman's kafala (sponsorship) system for foreign labor and the absence of labor law protections, migrant domestic workers are vulnerable to mistreatment and exploitation at the hands of employers, with whose approval they need to change employment. People who run from abuse—such as beatings, sexual assault, unpaid wages, and long labor hours—have few options for legal recourse and risk being prosecuted for "absconding."

"Asma K.," a Bangladeshi worker, said that she traveled to the United Arab Emirates for employment, but that her agent "sold" her to a man who seized her passport and brought her to Oman. He denied her food, verbally and sexually assaulted her, made her labor twenty-one hours a day for a family of fifteen without breaks or days off, and paid her nothing. "I would work from 4:30 in the morning until 1 in the morning," she stated. They wouldn't let me sit for the whole day. He said, "I bought you for 1,560 rials (US$4,052) from Dubai," when I said I wanted to go. Return it to me, then feel free to leave."

Some nations, like Indonesia, have outright forbidden their citizens from emigrating to Oman and other nations with similar histories because of the shocking circumstances. However, the bans are ineffectual and, as recruiters attempt to get around the limitations, they may increase the risk of forced labor or human trafficking for women.  

In addition to their obligation of giving domestic workers the same protections under the law as other workers, Omani authorities should act quickly to reform the restrictive immigration system that ties migrant workers to their employers and look into any possible cases of forced labor, human trafficking, or slavery.

This is an urgent call for humanity.

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