Thursday, November 4, 2010

Underpaid, underinformed and overworked

Yet another news article about the afflictions of migrant workers here in Oman. The Times of Oman has reported the story of 9 Indian workers who were tricked and "illegally recruited" at the hands of two agents in India. Once the workers reached Oman their passports were taken from them, they were forced to work long hours and were denied pay. Is this story beginning to sound all too familiar?
Human Trafficking is a global disease but due to the sheer volume of migrant workers and the relative youth of the system, it seems there are a lot of cases here.
According to a report on Human Trafficking in Oman by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), although progress is continually being made, Oman is still not fully compliant with minimum global standards in trafficking. There was a Royal Decree issued in 2008 which can punish human trafficking with up to 15 years imprisonment and fines but what the system most prominently lacks are properly functioning procedures for victims of trafficking among those who are without identification (ie. those whose passport has been taken from them).
The implementation of laws and punishments is a huge step in the right direction but I think more should be done towards the prevention of expolitation. This should include assisting those who are most vulnerable (those who are poorly educated, or even illiterate, and those who do not speak Arabic or English). One way would to be to ensure that anyone entering Oman to work is informed in writing or verbally in their own language of their rights, the laws and where they can find support. Employers too should be given the same information so they are aware of the laws and what their rights and limits as employers are. Employment agencies could be controlled, or at least audited by the government (perhaps there is some sort of system in place already, if there is its evidently not fully effective).
Far from being exploited, migrant labour and domestic workers should be extolled because they have contributed so much to the development of Oman. I'm sure the majority of the Omani population do treat foreign workers with the respect and equality any human deserves, but whilst cases of abuse remain regular, its obvious there is still a long way to go.


  1. "One way would to be to ensure that anyone entering Oman to work is informed in writing or verbally in their own language of their rights, the laws and where they can find support" ....

    If the Indian Embassy isnt available for a housemaid who would die, its not surprising that from within India to arrival in and departure from Oman their citizens are exploited - 'isnt it' !?

  2. " Yeah the story is familiar and is happening almost everywhere in gulf. Even if agreements are given in English in some companies the workers have to work long hours so that they are able to save considerable amount of money by means of overtime. A technician in an Indian company would get a salary of R.O.65- 75.000 plus bachelor accommodation + food + transport to & from work site. It is a paltry wage and for this the workers pay up to a lac of rupees to the agents !!!!
    The best practice would be to introduce minimum wages to expat labor unskilled and skilled like in some of the countries and also to penalize companies not paying wages over 2 months.

  3. Well said, Victoria! Thanks for posting this!