Meanwhile, Oman continues to try to improve their current status as 'Tier 3 / Tier 2 watch list' in the upcoming 2009 US State Dept Human Trafficking Report.
As it has already been agreed that expat workers in Oman are entitled to hold onto their own passports (even though many still have their passport kept illegally by their 'employers', a crime for which there is no defined punishment anyhow), the problem is now seen as this:
How can an Omani sponsor stop his expats leaving the country without 'permission' if he can't legally confiscate their passports?
Ah ha! Easy. We'll invent a new document called an "Exit Pass" that would be required from the sponsor before any expat is allowed to leave Oman, even temporarily, passport or not! See report in Gulf News. [thanks for the tip AM]
Yes. Turn all of Oman into a giant prison for all non-GCC expats, unless they have written permission to leave from their
This proposal totally misses the point (I hope readers can figure that out). It may allow Oman's National Committee for
And in the process would create a whole new load of paperwork before any expat could even drive to Dubai, and henceforth there would be two classes of expats: those with a magic exit permit [aka free men], and those without [aka slaves - Check out the recent book on Modern Slavery: A Crime So Monstrous].
That such a proposal is even considered provides a revealing glimpse of how most Expats are still thought of by the powers that be in Oman - as a resource to be used and controlled via coertion.
Even now, an Expat in Oman is effectively owned by his or her Omani sponsor. You have 4 choices:
(1) work for your sponsor, and if you have a problem with wages, your treatment or other contractual aspects, complain to the Ministry of Manpower, or;
(2) leave the country (if you have your passport and labour card), or;
(3) get permission from your sponsor to transfer to a new sponsor (usually for a significant fee), or;
(4) abscond and work illegally for someone else, thus being subject to arrest, fines, imprisonment and deportation.
But an expat cannot resign from one sponsor to work for another without permission from the original sponsor. It's a form of bonded labour. You can imagine the power this gives an Omani sponsor over an employee whose only option is being sent on a one-way flight back to their miserable home country, and who perhaps might not be treated very well while they wait for their complaint with the MoM or the backed up court system to be processed.
Now, an argument would be that if expats don't want to work in such a system they can choose not to come here. But few expats realise that this is they way Oman works before getting here, perhaps thinking that an Omani work visa is similar to how it would be in the UK or US, where the Government has given you a right to seek employment relatively freely. And most low paid expats here have little choice anyhow - they are here out of desperation to earn money to send home. But that is exactly why Governments should protect such powerless people from being overly exploited.
If they are truly serious about Human Rights, Oman needs to think properly about how it could improve the way it treats expats, especially low-paid labour from the 3rd world, and protect them from such effective slavery. The answer is not to just turn the entire country into a prison, just so that we can claim expats have a travel document, albeit one that is useless for actually travelling.
And perhaps we should re-read the 1926 International Slavery Convention while we're at it:
Slavery was defined(Art.1) as:
"the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised"
and the slave trade was defined to include:
"all acts involved in the capture, acquisition or disposal of a person with intent to reduce him to slavery; all acts involved in the acquisition of a slave with a view to selling or exchanging him; all acts of disposal by sale or exchange of a slave acquired with a view to being sold or exchanged, and, in general, every act of trade or transport in slaves."
here's the news article from yesterday's Gulf News:
Oman considers exit pass for expatriates
By Sunil K. Vaidya, Bureau Chief
Published: April 03, 2009, 23:02
Muscat: Oman is considering a proposal to introduce 'exit permits' for expatriate residents even as the police chief has identified three forms of human trafficking prevalent in the country.
Lieutenant General Malek Bin Sulaiman Al Maamari, Oman's Inspector General of Police and Customs, said that the National Committee for Combating Human Trafficking would prepare a draft on combating various aspects of human trafficking and it would be completed within three months.
"Protecting the rights of foreign work force is part of the proposed draft," the police chief told media at the end of the first meeting of the Committee at the Royal Oman Police headquarters.
"The Manpower Ministry has done a lot to guarantee the rights of workers but there are some small details that need to be looked into, including [the] right to keep [one's] passport," he said.
"[A] passport is a private document and every employee has the right to keep the same with him or her," he said but added that the employers also needed some form of guarantee that employees would not leave dubiously.
Therefore, the committee discussed a proposal where every expatriate would be required to obtain a clearance letter from the employer or sponsor before leaving the country.
"It is like 'exit pass' that is in practice in some of the other GCC countries," he told Gulf News.
In Saudi Arabia and Qatar, foreign workers have to obtain exit permit to leave the country. The police chief stressed that the committee only discussed the proposal on clearance letters for expatriate leaving Oman.
"If accepted every expatriate will have to seek [an] exit permit even before going on leave," Al Maamari said.
Oman is a home to about 750,000 foreign workers, and the majority of them are currently required to hand over their passports to their employers.
However, the new move is set to allow them to keep their passports.
The chairman of the National Committee for Combating Human Trafficking also admitted that prostitution, trade in human organs and child labour had afflicted Oman.
Authorities had so far uncovered only one case of human trafficking, relating to prostitution.
"We have arrested seven Omani nationals and four expatriates of other nationalities for forcing women into prostitution," he said.
He said that victims of the prostitution racket were sheltered at a centre run by the authorities and that they were well looked after. He also said the women were even escorted when they went shopping or undertook leisure trips. He also the victims would be sent back to their home country once legal proceedings were concluded and rulings delivered.
He said it was bitter to note that some countries demanding human rights observance by all nations had legalised prostitution as a profession and even ensure benefits accrued to prostitutes.
"It [prostitution] may be the oldest profession in human history but our religion does not tolerate this," the top Omani police officer reiterated.
Al Maamari said that the problem of illegal immigrants entering Oman along the Batina coast was a continuing development.
"We arrest almost 30 to 40 illegal immigrants every day along the coast and currently there are over 1,000 people from Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan languishing in our detention centres for illegally entering the country," he said.
He admitted that the nation was faced with a complex challenge in the form of human traffickers from Pakistan as well as Iran.