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Concern over endless abuse of foreign housemaids in Oman

Violations of housemaids’ rights remain a major problem in Oman, both for society and for the government.  The image of the country they present is just the opposite of what the government wants the world to see.

Society alone cannot be blamed; nor can the violations housemaids suffer be portrayed simply as one-off cases of abuse that take place in the absence of laws offering them protection.

The most vulnerable to exploitation and abuse are housemaids from African countries such as Tanzania, Ethiopia and Nigeria, and those whose embassies in Oman offer them no protection.

The Omani Centre for Human Rights (OCHR) has received numerous reports of abuse from housemaids in Oman, most of whom are too afraid of reprisals from their sponsors to give their real names.

Some maids tell the OCHR they have reported mistreatment or sexual harassment to police stations nearby, but to no avail, as the police have not initiated any official proceedings or undertaken any investigation into their reports.

What usually happens when a sponsor is “annoyed” by a housemaid complaining is that he sends her back to the agency that recruited her, and the agency immediately sends a replacement.

Housemaids’ passports are withheld for fear of their absconding; they are denied weekly time off; and they work long hours in degrading living conditions.  They have to be ready for service at whatever time they are given an order, and their duties may cover more than one household.

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If a housemaid asks to leave Oman, or even just to change her sponsor, she has to pay for her flight home herself, or else forego her wages until she is replaced.

The OCHR has seen video evidence of sexual harassment, in which a sponsor tried to force a housemaid to have sex with him.

However the clearest evidence of the abuse of housemaids can be found in the advertisements published on one of Oman’s best known online platforms, in which female workers are presented as commodities to be bought, sold or exchanged.  The same website encourages negative attitudes toward housemaids, and offers advice on how to control them.

The main complaints received by the OCHR are as follows:

  • Housemaids may be forced to work in more than one home owned by the same family, or by relatives of the family, without any extra pay or even prior agreement.
  • Many domestic workers are hired at an agreed fixed rate of pay and benefits, but then find themselves in practice being paid less than the agreed amount, and without any benefits at all.
  • Many housemaids are denied a single day or even a few hours off each week.
  • Their movements are restricted, and they are prevented from leaving the house unless accompanied by a member of the family, and only for a limited time.
  • Some housemaids are forced to sleep in the kitchen, as their sponsors fail to provide them with suitable accommodation within the house where they are working.
  • Several housemaids have testified that they suffered sexual harassment from at least one family member in the house where they were working.  Their sponsors would mostly not do anything to prevent this harassment, and in some cases the sponsor himself would be party to it.
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Despite increasing problems for migrant workers, there is as yet no dedicated body monitoring the conditions of domestic workers, and no hotline through which they can lodge complaints.  Several housemaids said police stations in the provinces and cities where they worked did not take their complaints seriously, and the situation usually backfired on them, as they ended up suffering reprisals from the families in whose homes they worked.

Similarly, there is no independent or even government-backed civil society activity to educate the public and try to change the way housemaids are typically treated, which quite simply amounts slavery.

Improving workers’ conditions and creating new laws to protect them, whatever their nationalities, is a matter of simple humanity and the responsibility of every individual.  It is not the responsibility of the government alone, but there does have to be an official legal mechanism to end all forms of this continuing abuse of housemaids.

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Help us at OCHR to uncover and publicise these violations, so that we can ensure that every housemaid is treated properly, with humanity and respect, in a way that offers her protection and guarantees her rights.

Source: ochroma.com

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Human trafficking: PJI  urges proper trauma management for returnees

The Pathfinder Justice Initiative (PJI), a Non-Governmental Organisation, has called for proper trauma care for migrant returnees to prevent them from becoming vulnerable to subsequent trafficking.

Evon Benson-Idahosa, the Executive Director, PJI, made the call at a Rehabilitation Workshop for Providers Serving Survivors of Human Trafficking held in Benin on Thursday.

The workshop was organised by PJI and funded by INSighT- Building Capacity to deal with human trafficking and transit routes to Nigeria, Italy and Sweden.

Benson-Idahosa said that a majority of returnee-migrants usually undergo different traumatic situations and needed to be properly rehabilitated before being integrated back into the society. She noted that if the migrant returnees were not properly rehabilitated, they would not be able to put into good use any form of skills acquisition or empowerment received.

“Providers serving survivors should know how to handle traumatised victims because many of them, especially females, have been raped and have gone through horrible experiences during their trafficking journey.

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“The providers should know that there are best practices in terms of handling trafficked victims; they need to use a survivor centred approach to prioritise the needs of the victims,” she said.

She called on the government at all levels to partner more with NGOs on providing best traumatic care for returned migrants in the country.

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How Nigerian-American police officer burst human trafficking syndicate in US

A retried Nigerian American Police officer, Samuel Balogun  narrated how he  burst a human trafficking syndicate that specialized in using minors for prostitution.

“My biggest accomplishment was bursting a human trafficking crime,” Balogun said.

Giving details of how he executed the task,  the dark skinned retired police officer said: “ There was a guy that was using minors for prostitution on the internet.  I have an accent and when I speak people know I am an African. So, I had to go undercover and had to call the guy on the internet.  I said ‘ hey! what is going on, I am in town. I am a truck driver and I want some girls.’ I asked  how old? He said the younger they are, the more money. I said about 15 to 16 years. He said ok.  I asked  how many he could bring and he replied two. He said which hotel was I and I gave the name to him. He told me to hang up and  he called back  the hotel. He subsequently called me and asked if I was there and I said yes. He said he would be there in 20 minutes.

“We were waiting for him to come but he was smart too. He dropped the girls down the street and made them walk to the room. The girls asked how much I was ready to pay and wanted to take off their clothes but I said not yet.  In the next room were officers listening to our conversation. When I make a signal, that means it is time for them to come in. but before you make the signal, you have to make sure they have mentioned the price, they have given the reason why they were there, so it doesn’t look like you are entrapping them.  When I made the signal, the officers burst in and arrested everybody including me.

Thereafter, Balogun said  the police  processed the girls and after that, “they said look, you are minors and we know somebody is pushing you to do this. Now we don’t want to arrest you but tell us how to get to the boss.  The girls cooperated and  made as if they were leaving. When the man pulled up to pick them up, and that was how we arrested  him. That stopped a lot of those crimes.”

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Balogun said he was in Nigeria to bring his wealth of experience to bear on the disturbing security situation in the country. “ I am trying to bring back  my experience as a  police officer in the states to Nigeria. When you look at the #endsars period, the performance of the police was something that hurt my feelings. How can we make it better? How can we make the police job something that people will look with respect  and want to join?”

He hinted that his  security firm is involved in training not only police officers but “ I also train private security companies. I am in touch with a lot of private security companies in Nigeria.  There is another concept which Nigeria is embracing right now.

“It is called community policing. In the states it is called neighbourhood policing or community policing. It works in a way that in every street, there would be a police officer that lives in that neighbourhood.   You get to know the people and the people know you. In some apartments, they will give you a discount just for the police officer to be there because they know once a police officer is living there, the police car is outside and the crime level will reduce. People are more likely to talk to that officer because they know him. They are more able to tell him’ hey we know who committed that crime.’  For every crime, you need people to tell you what happened. You can have all the gadgets but if people are not talking, you can’t solve the crime.”

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He further said: “I am training police officers, security companies and executive protection. What my security company is doing is to free the police officers from attachment to chiefs, politicians and all that.  We train civilians to represent those officers so that they can go back to the street and do their normal jobs.  We have what we call executive protection/training. We have people that follow the president.  We can train you on how to be efficient and sometimes using less force, description tactics.”

Further expatiating on what his security firm does, the soft spoken officer said: “What my company is trying to do is to bring people to the table.  We are trying to train companies that there is a better way of security where we can teach you how to defend yourself, how to prepare for any emergency, and how to use less force. I have a guy, a navy seal that worked for the United States of America. You will be amazed about what he can do. He can disarm you in a minute even when you come with AK 47.    I am also bringing Hostage Negotiation, people that can talk to you when ransom has to be paid. In the US, we call it Hostage Negotiation.  They can talk to these people, and know their psyche. It is a full package. When you come  to my firm, you can see the whole spectrum  and choose.”

As a vastly travelled person, Blagun said: “I travel a lot and in all the African nations is where you see officers with AK 47. They said it is more intimidating. Criminals use AK 47 in America too but we still don’t carry it.  Is that the right weapon for the police officers, I leave that question open. “

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On the attitude of the Nigerian authorities his plans, he said: “I have talked to a lot of people in higher positions. In some places I don’t want to mention, I have got good responses.  My firm has done some things with certain private firms and the police. I have dealt with some highly placed security firms. So, this is not my first time here.  We are   looking at having training in Sheraton around July/August this year. It is going to be a big one. I am bringing a retired FBI agent, a navy seal, a retired marine , myself and may be two other officers.

“This is my country, I am proud of it. I am sad sometimes when you look at the security aspect of it.  With my experience, I am trying to make it a better place.  It has always been my passion to come back home. I am retired and don’t really need to work again. My benefits are okay untill I die.  But why die with all this experience when I can pass it to the next person.”

 

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Hundreds of thousands of people leave Britain due to pandemic

 

Hundreds of thousands of people have left Britain as a fallout  of the pandemic on the economy, according to a study released yesterday.

There is an “unprecedented exodus” of workers born outside Britain, researchers at London’s Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence said.

“It seems that much of the burden of job losses during the pandemic has fallen on non-UK workers and has manifested itself in return migration, rather than unemployment,” said the authors.

The study is based on labour market data.

The trend was particularly notable in London, where one in five residents was born abroad.

The capital’s population has fallen by 700,000, the study said, adding that nationwide, the figure could be more than 1.3 million.

If these numbers are accurate, this is the largest decline in Britain’s population since World War II, according to the study.

No evidence suggests that similar numbers of British people who live abroad are returning to Britain.

However, this could be a temporary trend, the researchers said, noting that workers from abroad might return after the pandemic.

The British economy depends on workers from abroad and it is not only threatened by migration due to the pandemic.

Many industries fear the loss of skilled workers due to Britain’s departure from the European Union and stricter migration laws.

A further trend in 2021 is also causing concern, described as a “baby bust” by consultancy PwC, which said many couples were postponing having children due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

This could lead to the lowest birth rate since 1900, PwC said in early January.

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