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Over 400 women from Sierra Leone victims of human trafficking, forced labour in Oman

Domestic migrant workers from Sierra Leone [Aline Deschamps/Getty Images]
Domestic migrant workers from Sierra Leone [Aline Deschamps/Getty Images]

A new report has found that over 400 women from Sierra Leone working as domestic workers in Oman were victims of human trafficking.

The report published today by Do Bold, a non-profit that promotes the rights of migrant workers, reveals systemic and widespread abusive practices against these women including forced labour.

Many experienced deceptive recruitment, long working hours, restriction of movement and discrimination. Around one third of them suffered sexual abuse.

There are roughly 158,537 migrant domestic workers in Oman who, according to Do Bold, are often victims of human rights abuses including forced labour, wage theft and physical abuse.

The report details how these women from Sierra Leone become trapped in Oman and have no access to a grievance mechanism or any protective measures against them.

Domestic workers often must pay a charge for absconding and release money. There are gaps in legislation to protect them, which provide the employer with more power than the domestic worker.

READ: Qatar deports migrant workers protesting unpaid salaries constructing World Cup stadiums

The kafala (sponsorship) system is used in the Gulf to monitor migrant workers and gives employers excessive control over them and facilitates their abuse and exploitation, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Mariama, one of the women interviewed for Do Bold's report, said that when she tried to return to Sierra Leone her 'recruitment agent' beat her and then locked her in a room without food or water for a week.

Due to severe limitations on civil society in Oman, domestic workers have little support and if they complain their situation can worsen.

Fatmata told Do Bold that when she complained about the treatment in the house in which she was working, including that she had to sleep in the hallway as she wasn't given a bed or a bedroom, they lowered her salary by 40 per cent.

Recruitments often take place deceptively with some women being told they are going to work in the US or the UK.

Aisha was told she had been given a job in Iraq as a domestic worker but in 2021 landed in Oman. She was paid almost $300 less a month than she had been promised and worked 18-hour days.

Do Bold has called on the Oman government to monitor human trafficking and allow domestic workers in the country recourse to justice.

Categories
AfricaHRWInternational OrganisationsMiddle EastNewsOmanSierra Leone
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