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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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Netherlands, IOM launch Global Migration Initiative to protect people on the move

COMPASS will provide vulnerable migrants including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children access to a broad range of protection and assistance services.

 The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands launched the Cooperation on Migration and Partnerships for Sustainable Solutions initiative (COMPASS) at the beginning of 2021. COMPASS is a global initiative, in partnership with 12 countries, designed to protect people on the move, combat human trafficking and smuggling, and support dignified return while promoting sustainable reintegration.

The initiative is centred on a whole-of-society approach which, in addition to assisting individuals, will work across all levels – households, communities, and the wider communities – and encompasses the following partner countries: Afghanistan, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, and Tunisia.

“We want to mobilize families, peers and communities to encourage informed and safe migration decisions, protect migrants, and help those returning home reintegrate successfully,” said Monica Goracci, Director of the Department of Migration Management at IOM.

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“One key component is also undermining the trafficking and smuggling business models through the promotion of safe alternatives and information sharing to reduce the risks of exploitation and abuse by these criminal networks.” Vulnerable migrants, including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children, will have access to a broad range of protection and assistance services such as mental health and psychosocial support, while migrants in transit who wish to return home will be supported with dignified return and reintegration.

Community level interventions will focus on improving community-led efforts to address trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, and support sustainable reintegration of returning migrants. COMPASS will work with national and local governments to enable a conducive environment for migrant protection, migration management and international cooperation on these issues.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pleased to launch the COMPASS programme in cooperation with IOM, an important and longstanding partner on migration cooperation,” said Marriët Schuurman, Director for Stability and Humanitarian Aid of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

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“The programme is a part of the Dutch comprehensive approach to migration with activities that contribute to protection and decreasing irregular migration. Research and data gathering are also important components, and we hope that the insights that will be gained under COMPASS will contribute to broader knowledge sharing on migration and better-informed migration policies.”, added Schuurman. The initiative has a strong learning component, designed to increase knowledge and the uptake of lessons learned, both within the programme and beyond its parameters. COMPASS will actively contribute to global knowledge that supports countries in managing migration flows and protecting vulnerable migrants such as victims of trafficking. The implementation of COMPASS is set to start soon.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, as the donor to the COMPASS initiative, pledges its active support to partner countries to improve migration cooperation mechanisms within its long-term vision. 

IOM, the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration, contributes its expertise as the technical implementation partner to the initiative. IOM works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners in its dedication to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. 

READ  EU-IOM joint initiative celebrates its fourth anniversary: A lifeline to vulnerable and stranded migrants amid COVID-19

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A child, 40 others drown in shipwreck off Tunisia

Photo: Mediterranean Sea

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are deeply saddened by reports of a shipwreck off the coast of Sidi Mansour, in southeast Tunisia, yesterday evening. The bodies of 41 people, including at least one child, have so far been retrieved.

According to reports from local UNHCR and IOM teams, three survivors were rescued by the Tunisian National Coast Guard. The search effort was still underway on Friday. Based on initial information, all those who perished were from Sub-Saharan Africa.

This tragic loss of life underscores once again the need to enhance and expand State-led search and rescue operations across the Central Mediterranean, where some 290 people have lost their lives so far this year. Solidarity across the region and support to national authorities in their efforts to prevent loss of life and prosecute smugglers and traffickers should be a priority.

Prior to yesterday’s incident, 39 refugees and migrants had perished off the coast near the Tunisian city of Sfax in early March. So far this year, sea departures from Tunisia to Europe have more than tripled compared to the same period in 2020.

READ  Netherlands, IOM launch Global Migration Initiative to protect people on the move

UNHCR and IOM continue to monitor developments closely. They continue to stand ready to work with the national authorities to assist and support the survivors, and the family members of those lost.

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Ethiopian migrants return home from Yemen with IOM support in wake of tragic boat sinking

Yemen: Stranded Ethiopian migrants prepare to board an IOM-facilitated flight from Aden, Yemen, to fly home to Addis Ababa. Photo: IOM/Majed Mohammed 2021

One hundred and sixty Ethiopian migrants have returned home safely from Yemen today with the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), just one day after a perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden claimed the lives of dozens of people, including at least 16 children.

More than 32,000 migrants, predominantly from Ethiopia, remain stranded across Yemen in dire, often deadly, circumstances.

“The conditions of migrants stranded in Yemen has become so tragic that many feel they have no option but to rely on smugglers to return home,” said Jeffrey Labovitz, IOM’s Director for Operations and Emergencies.

At least 42 people returning from Yemen are believed to have died on Monday when their vessel sank off the coast of Djibouti. Last month, at least 20 people had also drowned on the same route according to survivors. IOM believes that, since May 2020, over 11,000 migrants have returned to the Horn of Africa on dangerous boat journeys, aided by unscrupulous smugglers.

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“Our Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme provides a lifeline for those stranded in a country now experiencing its seventh year of conflict and crisis. We call on all governments along the route to come together and support our efforts to allow migrants safe and dignified opportunities to travel home,” added Labovitz.

COVID-19 has had a major impact on global migration. The route from the Horn of Africa to Gulf countries has been particularly affected. Tens of thousands of migrants, hoping to work in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), now find themselves unable to complete their journeys, stranded across Djibouti, Somalia and Yemen.

While the pandemic has also caused the number of migrants arriving to Yemen to decrease from 138,000 in 2019 to just over 37,500 in 2020, the risks they face continue to rise. Many of these migrants are stranded in precarious situations, sleeping rough without shelter or access to services. Many others are in detention or being held by smugglers.

READ  256 men, women, children die in Mediterranean Sea routes as at April 22

“We cannot find jobs or food here; Yemen is a problem for us,” said Gamal, a 22-year-old migrant returning on the VHR flight. “I used to sleep in the street on cardboard. I could only eat because of the charity people would give me and sometimes we were given leftovers from restaurants. I never had much to eat.”

Since October 2020, in Aden alone, IOM has registered over 6,000 migrants who need support to safely return home. Today’s flight to Addis Ababa was the second transporting an initial group of 1,100 Ethiopians who have been approved for VHR to Ethiopia. Thousands of other undocumented migrants are waiting for their nationality to be verified and travel documents to be provided.

Prior to departure on the VHR flight, IOM carried out medical and protection screenings to ensure that returnees are fit to travel and are voluntarily consenting to return. Those with special needs are identified and receive specialized counselling and support.

In Ethiopia, IOM supports government-run COVID-19 quarantine facilities to accommodate the returnees on arrival and provides cash assistance, essential items and onward transportation to their homes. The Organization also supports family tracing for unaccompanied migrant children.

READ  Migrants among most vulnerable, as IOM ramps up coronavirus response worldwide

Across the Horn of Africa and Yemen, IOM provides life-saving support to migrants through health care, food, water and other vital assistance.

Today’s flight was funded by the US State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). Post-arrival assistance in Addis Ababa is supported by EU Humanitarian Aid and PRM.

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