Thursday, June 12, 2008

The US State Dept. report on Human Trafficking

Oh, here's the report card on HE. Seems pretty accurate to me.

Oman's company back in Tier 3 are here:
Algeria
Burma
Cuba
Fiji
Iran
Kuwait
Moldova
North Korea
Oman
Papua New Guinea
Qatar
Saudi Arabia
Sudan
Syria

Not the sort of club any respectable country would want to be officially named as being a part of, is it? And certainly not the company HM wants to be seen keeping. I think the Undersec is clearly a little worried about keeping his job...

Here's the link to the full report, if you're interested. And here's the report (full of lies, obviously) on Oman...

OMAN (Tier 3)
Oman is a destination and transit country for men and women primarily from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Indonesia, most of whom migrate willingly as low-skilled workers or domestic servants. Some of them subsequently face conditions of involuntary servitude, such as withholding of passports and other restrictions on movement, non-payment of wages, long working hours without food or rest, threats, and physical or sexual abuse.

Unscrupulous labor recruitment agencies and their sub-agents at the community level in South Asia and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) may also coerce or defraud workers into accepting exploitative work, including conditions of involuntary servitude, in Oman.

Oman is also a destination country for women from China, India, the Philippines, Morocco, and Eastern Europe who may be trafficked for commercial sexual
exploitation. The Government of Oman does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. Oman failed to report any law enforcement activities to prosecute and punish trafficking offenses this year under existing legislation. The government also continues to lack victim protection services or a systematic procedure to identify
victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations, such as undocumented migrants and women arrested for prostitution.

Recommendations for Oman:

Enact legal reforms to prohibit all forms of trafficking, including forced labor, commercial sexual exploitation, and the use of force, fraud, or coercion in the recruitment process; significantly increase investigations and prosecutions of trafficking crimes, and convictions and punishment of trafficking offenders; institute a formal victim identification mechanism;
afford victims of trafficking protection services, such as medical, psychological, and legal assistance;
and cease deporting possible victims of trafficking.

Prosecution
Oman failed to report any progress in prosecuting or punishing trafficking offenses over the last year. Although Oman lacks a comprehensive anti-trafficking law, it prohibits slavery under Articles 260-261 of its Penal Code, which prescribes penalties of three to 15 years’ imprisonment. Oman also prohibits coerced prostitution through Article 220, with prescribed penalties of three to five years’ imprisonment. Prescribed punishments for both crimes are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other grave crimes. Although Royal Decree 74 prohibits forced labor, the prescribed penalties of up to one month in prison and/or fines are not sufficiently stringent to deter the offense. A legally enforceable circular prohibits employers from withholding workers’ passports; the circular, however, does not specify penalties for noncompliance, and the practice continues to be widespread. The government did not report any arrests, prosecutions, convictions, or punishments for trafficking offenses under these laws in the last year and has taken no active measures to criminally investigate trafficking in persons. In 2008, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) received 297 grievances from laborers, including some possible trafficking cases; the ministry negotiated all but 12 of these cases out of court. Oman did not report enforcing any criminal penalties against abusive employers.

Protection
During the reporting period, Oman made no discernible efforts to improve protection services for victims of trafficking. The government does not provide shelter services, counseling, or legal aid to trafficking victims. Oman also lacks a systematic procedure to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, such as migrants detained for immigration violations and women arrested for prostitution. Furthermore, workers who are trafficking victims and have fled from their abusive employers without obtaining new sponsorship are subject to automatic deportation if detained by the authorities. Such victims may be reluctant to report abuse or participate in investigations for fear of detention and deportation. Oman does not offer foreign trafficking victims legal alternatives to removal to countries in which they may face hardship or retribution.

Prevention
Oman made modest efforts to prevent trafficking in persons during this reporting period. The MOM published and began distributing a brochure in nine languages, including Urdu, Hindi, and Malayalam; these brochures provide information on rights and services available to migrant workers, as well as the contact information for the Ministry’s 24-hour labor abuse hotline. The MOM also hired approximately 100 new labor inspectors and, in cooperation with the ILO, trained them in the requirements of core ILO conventions and how to recognize the signs of trafficking in persons.
The government did not take any known measures during the reporting period to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, or educate its citizens about child sex trafficking, including thorough public awareness campaigns targeting citizens traveling to known child sex tourism destinations.

9 comments:

  1. Interesting. do you think the government is serious enough about this to actually start prosecuting employers for holding passports?

    Also surprised to see Fiji there, I guess have a coup every few years doesn't help eh?

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  2. its very accurate, with the UAE and Thailand not on the list

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  3. Ali,

    Yeah, Fiji is a bit of an anomaly. But it certainly seems that if Oman wants to get off Tier 3 they do actually have to start prosecuting people, publicly, something traditionally never easy in Oman. And doing something real about the forced sex slaves in Ruwi, Adam, Seeb... And the slaves in blue suits or in the construction industry.

    Coloman
    I totally agree, it does seem unfair that UAE and Thailand, or Cambodia, or some of the east European countires aren't there on Tier 3 as well. But thats the difference - I'd expand Tier 3, not promote Oman to Tier 2.

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  4. Anonymous LurkerJune 13, 2008 at 4:20 PM

    The report is not intended to reflect the seriousness of the problem of human trafficking, it's to reflect what is actually being done to try and combat the problem. UAE Is Tier 2 because the Emirates is doing more to solve the problem than Oman currently is.

    Dubai may indeed have more sex workers for example, but, Oman has less measures in place to prevent it.

    The point of the report is to recognise countries that are doing something about the problem of human trafficking, NOT to reflect the actual level of the problem. So all these comments about Dubai having more sex workers or migrant workers... its mis-directed and just, well, stupid. READ the entire report before spouting off factually incorrect statements - something I wish the Times of Oman would do. Idiots.

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  5. Good point Anon - I obviously wasn't being clear enough. Its about doing things, processes, institutions, and prosecutions, not at all about the actual scale of the problem.

    But I think the scale in Oman is bigger than most people think. Its just that its generally confined to the Expat Subcontinent community, and the ROP tend to have a rather differential attitude if its kept within that subculture.

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  6. Dear UD,

    Love the blog. Good to see you are addressing what I always suspected with this article since seeing a harrowing documentary I saw a while back on the subject of labour conditions in the UAE.

    Needs more international exposure in the same vain.

    Please keep posting.

    ReplyDelete
  7. "Anonymous Lurker" has it right.

    Here is something I have written but not yet sent... I dont even know if I should bother.

    All that it takes for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

    Dear Mr.Al Hamdani,

    I urge you to read the US Department of State's report. I am not here to criticize Oman, but let us look at whether some people in this country may actually need help. You and I are privileged enough to be from affluent backgrounds where security is the norm. But let us investigate whether others are struggling.

    I urge you to practice fair reporting, and consider the issue from other angles. So far you have only published one side of the story-- yet you have a responsibilty to people to report all sides. You are the media, the most powerful force on earth. How can you justify only presenting one side of the story?

    At the end of the day, the US is only following up what the United Nations stated in 2006 (please see below). They only encourage Oman and other countries to provide a support network for those whose rights are abused-- something the UAE already does.

    This is not about the US versus Oman-- it is damaging to their relationship to present information as such. I recommend you take a fair, open-minded approach. Open a dialogue. Look deep and ask what you can do as media and what we can do as human beings to facilitate everyone's rights.

    Respectfully,

    (name withheld)



    UN expert on human trafficking calls on Oman to do more to help victims

    8 November 2006 –While Oman has made some progress in helping combat the global problem of human trafficking, it needs to do more to follow-up on international obligations, an independent United Nations expert has said after completing a five-day fact-finding mission to the Sultanate, during which she met officials, victims and representatives of civil society.

    “I am pleased to note that, following its accession in 2005 to the Palermo Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children… the Government has established a technical committee to review all related legislation, assess outstanding needs and propose measures,” Sigma Huda, the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons told reporters yesterday.

    “Yet much remains to be done for the Government to implement Oman’s international obligations related to human trafficking… I have found that a number of human beings, including women, travel to Oman in order to make a living for themselves and earn money to send to the families and loved ones they leave thousands of kilometres behind,” she said.

    “Some of these migrant workers are often lured in their country of origin by unscrupulous recruiting agents with false promises of a certain job or certain working conditions. More often than not they are shocked to find themselves in exploitative situations upon arrival,” she said, adding that “casual labourers” are one of the most disadvantaged groups and most open to abuse.

    Ms. Huda said that the authorities of both sending and receiving countries have a “responsibility to identify, prosecute and punish those unscrupulous recruiting agencies,” and she also highlighted that some domestic workers experience “degrading conditions” from their employers, although their suffering often goes unnoticed.

    She also expressed concern at reports of an “extensive sweep of arrests” of foreign workers during the summer aimed at identifying those without valid documents and deporting them back to their countries of origin, highlighting also that access to justice for domestic and other migrant workers with complaints of abuse “remains inadequate.”

    “Applicable international standards oblige Oman to identify and treat victims of human trafficking as victims. However, domestic workers who flee situations of exploitation and abuse are frequently re-victimized,” she pointed out, encouraging the Government “to consider the possibility of creating shelters that could accommodate safely victims of abuse and exploitation including domestic migrant workers, following the examples of other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.”

    Special Rapporteurs are unpaid independent experts with a mandate from the Human Rights Council who also make periodic reports to the General Assembly.

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  8. Barbs, Victoria

    Thanks. See latest post. I'll try and do a bit more 'real' on this soon.

    One issue is that it really is bad, bad, bad to be poor in Pakistan or India. So, from their point of view, they ARE better off here working 80 hrs a week, earning ~150 bucks (almost all of which is sent home) and at least being fed and housed. Back home, they would have none of that.

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  9. This topic Is quite sensitive. I just couldnt avoid to feel a pinch in my heart or shall i say, a stab in my ego upon reading this. Well reality bites,isnt it.
    Well anyways, i do appreciate your writing power.

    I just read your blogs now and majority are quite interesting.
    Will be reading more of your posts.

    Gud luck.

    + PiNaY +

    ReplyDelete

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