A new report has exposed how women from Sierra Leone have been trafficked into domestic work in Oman and trapped in abusive private households while the authorities fail to protect victims.
Widespread abuse & exploitation
Do Bold, an organization supporting migrant workers in Gulf states, interviewed 469 domestic workers from Sierra Leone working in Oman over a two-year period. All but one of these women said they experienced trafficking and forced labor.
The women who were interviewed reported being tricked into domestic work in Oman by unscrupulous recruiters. Some of the women said they thought they were traveling to the country to work in hospitality, while others were under the impression that they would be studying abroad.
Kafala system in Oman
Work relations between migrant domestic workers in Oman and their employers are governed by the kafala system which ties workers’ immigration status to their employer. This is widely acknowledged as being a driver of exploitation and trafficking by perpetuating a power imbalance to the detriment of low-paid migrant workers.
Breaking an employment contract by fleeing an abusive employer can lead to being jailed. As the Guardian reports, the fear of arrest and deportation prevented victims of trafficking and abuse from seeking support from authorities.
Adama*, a domestic worker in her 20’s, said she called the Omani police earlier this year after months of physical abuse by her employers, and provided evidence of injuries sustained by being regularly flogged. […] Adama said that the police visited her at her employer’s home and spoke to the household, but then left without her. As a punishment, she says her employers locked her in a room without food.
Founder and director of Do Bold, Ekaterina Porras Sivolobova, said: “For each woman we interviewed, it is a crisis that is significantly affecting their health and wellbeing. It begs the question of what needs to be done to solve this issue.”
Do Bold’s report highlights how an overwhelming 99 percent of those interviewed had never had a day off and 91 percent reported their freedom being impacted, including the confiscation of passports.
The Freedom United community is calling on all governments to ratify the Domestic Workers Convention (C189), the first international standard that places obligations on states to protect domestic workers from exploitation and abuse. Sign the petition today and call on your country to stand with domestic workers.