Govt overlooks BD maids being abused in Oman

The ministry of expatriates welfare and overseas employment has overlooked issues of Bangladeshi housemaids who were reportedly trapped in abusive employment in Oman.

Human Rights Watch and local migration right bodies said that Bangladeshi maids were enduring physical tortures, beatings, sexual abuses, unpaid wages, and excessive working hours in the Gulf state.

They called upon the authorities concerned to take up appropriate measure to stop abuses and ensure the workers’ rights.

When asked about HRW report, the expatriates welfare and overseas employment minister, Nurul Islam on Thursday avoided direct answer to physical abuses of Bangladesh’s female workers in Oman.

He, however, said the migrant workers often lodge ‘incorrect’ complaints and that ‘they do not consider the food habit and cultural traits of the host countries.’

‘If there are specific allegations, the government will take steps to address those,’ he said.

According to a report of Human Rights Watch released on Wednesday, many domestic workers are being trapped in abusive employment in Oman with their plight hidden behind closed doors.

At least 130,000 female migrant domestic workers, and possibly many more, work in the Sultanate. Most are from the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Ethiopia.

The HRW report advised the Omani authorities to take immediate steps to reform their restrictive immigration system that binds migrant workers to their employers. The body asked Oman to provide domestic workers with labor law protections equal to those enjoyed by other workers, and investigate all situations of possible trafficking, forced labor, and slavery.

Those who flee abuse – including beatings, sexual abuse, unpaid wages, and excessive working hours – have little avenue for redress and can face legal penalties for “absconding.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed 59 migrant domestic workers in Oman. In some cases, workers described abuses that amounted to forced labor or trafficking – often across Oman’s porous border with the United Arab Emirates.

Employers typically pay fees to recruitment agencies to secure domestic workers’ services, and several workers said that their employers told them they had ‘bought’ them. Some employers demand that workers reimburse them for recruitment fees for their ‘release.’

Asma Khatun, from Bangladesh, said she flew to the UAE to work there, but her recruitment agent ‘sold’ her to a man who confiscated her passport and took her to Oman.

He forced her to work 21 hours a day for a family of 15 with no rest or day off; deprived her of food; verbally abused and sexually harassed her; and paid her nothing.

‘I would start working at 4:30 a.m. and finish at 1 a.m.,’ she said.

‘For the entire day they wouldn’t let me sit. When I said I want to leave, he said, ‘I bought you for 1,560 rials (US$4,052) from Dubai. Give it back to me and then you can go.’

Bangladeshi Ovhibashi Mohila Sramik Association general secretary Sheikh Rumana said that she had more information over how Bangladeshi female workers were being treated.

She said workers are given inadequate foods and water, are not properly paid and engaged in very long hours in Oman.

Rumana said Bangladesh government should strengthen protection measures by setting up shelter homes and employing staff to protect female workers abroad.

According to Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training over 50,000 Bangladeshi female workers have been employed in Oman.

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