2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Oman
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||27 June 2011|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Oman, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee57c.html [accessed 31 August 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Oman (Tier 2)
Oman is a destination and transit country for men and women, primarily from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Indonesia, some of whom are subjected to conditions indicative of forced labor and, to a lesser extent, forced prostitution. Most of these migrants travel willingly to Oman with the expectation of employment in domestic service or as low-skilled workers in the country's construction, agriculture, or service sectors. Some of them subsequently face conditions indicative of forced labor, such as the withholding of passports and other restrictions on movement, nonpayment of wages, long working hours without food or rest, threats, and physical or sexual abuse. Unscrupulous labor recruitment agencies and their sub-agents in migrants' original communities in South Asia, as well as labor brokers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, and Iran, may deceive workers into accepting work that in some instances constitutes forced labor. Many of these agencies provide false contracts for employment either with fictitious employers or at fictitious wages and charge workers high recruitment fees (often exceeding $1,000) at usurious rates of interest, leaving workers vulnerable to trafficking. Oman is also a destination and transit country for women from China, India, Morocco, Eastern Europe, Uganda, Kenya, and other parts of South Asia who may be forced into commercial sexual exploitation, generally by nationals of their own countries. Male Pakistani laborers, and others from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and East Asia, transit Oman en route to the UAE; some of these migrant workers are exploited in situations of forced labor upon reaching their destination.
The Government of Oman does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government continued to prosecute sex trafficking offenders and sentence convicted traffickers to imprisonment; the number of convictions, however, declined from the last reporting period and did not include any criminal punishment of labor trafficking offenses. The government improved its victim protection efforts by opening a permanent shelter for victims of trafficking and began assisting victims there. The government also created a criminal division within its court system specifically to address trafficking cases and appointed specialized judges and prosecutors to oversee these cases. During the reporting period, the Public Prosecution and Royal Oman Police received training in trafficking victim identification. Nonetheless, Omani authorities continued to lack comprehensive formal procedures to proactively identify trafficking victims among those detained for immigration violations. As a result, the government may not have adequately identified victims of forced labor or punished their traffickers.
Recommendations for Oman: Continue to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and sentence convicted traffickers to imprisonment; make greater efforts to investigate and prosecute forced labor offenses, including those perpetrated by recruitment agents and employers; institute formal procedures for identifying trafficking victims among all vulnerable populations, such as illegal immigrants; enact and enforce penalties for employers who withhold their employees' passports as a measure to prevent labor trafficking; increase and enforce legal protections for domestic servants, including coverage under the labor laws of Oman; continue training government officials in all relevant departments to recognize and respond appropriately to human trafficking crimes; and increase public awareness campaigns or other prevention programs to reduce the demand for forced labor and commercial sex acts.
Royal Decree No. 126/2008, the Law Combating Human Trafficking, prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes punishments of three to 15 years' imprisonment, in addition to financial penalties. These punishments are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. A legally enforceable government circular prohibits employers' withholding of migrant workers' passports, a practice contributing to forced labor; the circular, however, does not specify penalties for noncompliance. The Government of Oman failed to adequately enforce its prohibition on the withholding of passports and this practice remains widespread among employers in Oman, including among government officials. The government reported that it resolved 202 cases of withholding workers' passports through Ministry of Manpower mediation and referred 40 cases to courts for resolution; the government did not, however, report launching investigations for potential trafficking situations resulting from these complaints. During the reporting period, the Government of Oman convicted four individuals for sex trafficking offenses, a decrease from the nine convictions for sex trafficking reported last year. One trafficking offender received a sentence of imprisonment of one year and the other three were sentenced to three to 15 years' imprisonment. These traffickers also paid fines ranging from $160 to $130,000; of these fines, $75,400 was used to provide restitution to their victims. The government reported resolving numerous labor complaints through mediation and its court system, but did not identify trafficking cases among these complaints and consequently did not report arresting, prosecuting, convicting, or sentencing any individuals for forced labor. In May 2010, an assistant public prosecutor specializing in trafficking trained judges, other public prosecutors, police officers, and officials from the Ministries of Manpower, and Social Development, and other security agencies on trafficking in persons. In October 2010, the Ministry of Manpower, in conjunction with ILO, hosted a training session for government officials on labor forms of trafficking. In addition, in January 2011, the Muscat Court of Appeals created a new criminal division consisting of two judges and two to three support staff to hear human trafficking cases. The government did not report any law enforcement efforts against the trafficking complicity of Omani public officials.
In January 2011, the Royal Oman Police officially opened a permanent shelter for victims of trafficking; this shelter can accommodate up to 50 men, women, and children who are victims of forced labor or sex trafficking. Victims in this shelter may not leave the premises unchaperoned, but can readily access shelter employees to accompany them offsite. During the reporting period, Omani authorities assisted 24 victims of trafficking with shelter, six of whom were in the permanent shelter; two women had been victims of sex trafficking and four were domestic servants who had been abused by their employers. Nonetheless, the government continued to lack formal procedures to proactively identify victims of trafficking among all vulnerable groups, including migrants detained for immigration violations. Omani authorities reportedly made some efforts, however, to identify victims among particular groups and provided training to police officers on victim identification. For example, Ministry of Manpower representatives interviewed all employees who ran away from sponsors and immigration officials interviewed all departing migrant workers to determine if they experienced a labor violation; however, the government did not report any victims identified through this process. Government authorities also report that victims can be identified either through the government's 24-hour hotline or during the course of prosecution by trained prosecutors and police. Due to a lack of comprehensive victim identification procedures, the Government of Oman may not have ensured expatriates subjected to forced labor were not inappropriately incarcerated, fined, or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. The government reportedly encourages potential trafficking victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of crimes against them, but does not provide a standard legal alternative to removal to countries in which they may face hardship or retribution; some victims may be permitted to stay in Oman on a case-by-case basis. Victims are not permitted to work pending trials, but they may leave the country or switch sponsors if their employer is found in violation of labor law provisions.
The government sustained modest efforts to prevent human trafficking during the reporting period. In January 2011, the Ministry of Manpower issued regulations requiring Omani labor recruitment agencies to provide all workers with a copy of their contract and repatriate the worker at its own expense if, within six months, it is found that the work to be performed by the employee is different from the work specified in that contract. Oman continued to distribute brochures in numerous languages highlighting the rights and services to which workers are legally entitled to source country embassies and to new migrant laborers at airports, recruitment agencies, and in their places of work. The government continued to operate an anti-trafficking hotline, but did not report the number of calls it received during the reporting period. The government also continued its public awareness campaign, which included placement of at least one article or editorial each week in the press about trafficking issues, including forced labor. In addition, the government's decision to segregate massage facilities not associated with hotels by gender resulted in the closure of 18 massage parlors, which may have been fronts for prostitution.