Thursday, February 10, 2011

US State Dept Report on exploitative treatment of Foreign expat contract workers in USA's Middle East Embassies - Muscat comes out relatively well.

An interesting recent report by the The Middle East Regional Office (MERO) of the US State Deptartment's Office of Inspector General (OIG) was released last week, titled:

Performance Evaluation of Department of State Contracts to Assess the Risk of Trafficking in Persons Violations in Four States in the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf.
Report Number MERO-I-11-06, January 2011

The Muscat US Embassy's gardening and cleaning contractors come out of the report relatively well. In fact, Muscat has the best paid cleaners and gardeners in the GCC, getting 140 rials a month (around US$363.63), the minimum wage for Omani's. There is no official minimum wage for Indian workers in Oman, but its unofficially it's a pitiful 60 rials per month for a 6 day week(US140). Here's the table from the report.

The UAE, Kuwait and Saudi all look terrible, paying less than US$6 per day.

Of course, that's what many Omani and Expat families pay their maids in Oman.

And pity the Sri Lankan gardeners in Saudi - almost half that.

The Embassy in Muscat also had a 'best practice' in the report when the Omani contractor - as per usual - was illegally keeping their passports, they got them access by installing a safe...

...Gardeners in Muscat, Oman were able to access their passports after the GSO requested that the contractor provide a small, secure safe in offices adjacent to workers’ housing. Janitors at Embassy Muscat also reported they signed a release allowing the contractor to hold their passports with the written understanding that they could retrieve them at any time. ...

Worryingly, most workers had paid large sums to agents to bring them to the Middle East. Most workers end up working for more than a year to repay these amounts, usually borrowed at high interest rates. Also, Muscat's workers had about the smallest living space: just 37.5 sq ft each (a space of just 1m x 3.5m). However, it was clean and had a cafeteria at least.

In Muscat, the gardeners bunk in a large work camp adjacent to the contractor’s administrative offices. Although personal space is very limited around workers’ bunks, OIG observed ample and regularly maintained common areas for recreation and dining. For example, the sanitary central kitchen shown in Figure 8 (see previous page) is staffed by the contractor and serves meals to 350 workers. The kitchen has a 48-seat adjoining cafeteria and includes several safety and hygiene features.
The gardening contract for Embassy Muscat includes a letter of assurance from the contractor stating it will provide to each worker basic and overtime minimum wages (set by the workers’ countries of origin), food, accommodation, medical care, and paid leave every 2 years. Line-by-line cost comparison worksheets detail how each worker’s salary and benefits will be adjusted under a renewed contract. Contract deliverables include attestations from foreign embassies that all labor agreements are legitimate, labor rights policy certification from the Omani Government, and a requirement that employees individually present their passports upon starting the job as evidence that they have not been coerced.

You can even read the declassified 2010 'report card' on the performance of the Muscat US Embassy by the OIG here. The Ambassador got an A, by the way, doing "an excellent job in advancing U.S. interests in Oman and strengthening this important bilateral relationship."

In other news, another oil tanker was hijacked "off the coast of Oman" (although please note by this they mean 350 MILES off the coast!). Calling this off the Omani coast is pretty unfair. It makes Oman look like a hotbed of piracy. The coast of India is probably closer.

Perhaps the Iranian/Omani joint navel exercises in the Gulf of Oman could be more usefully deployed a bit further East?

Just a suggestion chaps.

Iran and Oman hold joint military drills
Tehran Times Political Desk

TEHRAN – Iran and Oman started joint war games in the Sea of Oman on Wednesday.

Four fleets of warships, three jet fighters and a costal helicopter from Oman and four fleets of warships from Iran were used during the war game. Members of the two countries’ joint military committees were present at the event.

The goal of the war game is to increase the level of regional cooperation between the two countries and share experience.

The two countries are scheduled to hold such military exercises in Iran and Oman’s waters every year.

The third joint war game will be held in Iran’s waters during the next Iranian calendar’s year (starting on March 21)


  1. Can one be convinced that a major service company, who has worked for decades with a key relatively proactive client, doesn’t ensure that all staff working at said clients premises are among said major service company’s higher paid operatives.
    The stated wage sounds suspiciously high.

  2. Dragon, 400 miles SE on Muscat (latest version of report) is definitely closer to Oman than anywhere else, although well into international waters.


  3. While this report reflects well on Oman, "Thats What I" makes a very good point. I won't comment on whether its suspiciously high or not, but with the sort of relationship OIG may have with the embassy, it'd be wrong to draw inferences about Oman as a whole from this data.

    (not that you were, Dragon, it just needs to be said)

  4. UD Can you please give us more on shifting of Indian School Darsait to Ansab 45 km away.
    This will affect many students. The school is a very big school and in existence for a long time. The sudden decision to shift it smells rat.
    Please dig out, if you can.

  5. No doubt paying the gardeners more than the local rate makes up for the ones that they shoot in Pakistan


  6. that's what i... quit the ambiguous doublespeak man


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