Fareeda Begum, 49, is stuck in Oman after being trafficked by a recruitment agent who promised her a job in Dubai. Her case garnered national attention in India after Fareeda’s sister pleaded for her return in an interview published by PTI news.
Fareeda was recruited to work as a domestic worker in Dubai on a 30-day tourist visa on the advice of an agent who had promised her a monthly salary of AED 1,400 ($381) and free food and accommodation included in the job offer. Once Fareeda arrived in Dubai, the agent confiscated her passport and identifying documents.
Further reporting from The News Minute revealed that Fareeda fell ill after 21 days of overwork, and needed to be hospitalised. She begged her agent to send her back to Hyderabad. Under the pretext of repatriation, she was instead trafficked by road to Muscat, Oman, where she was forced to work despite her worsening health. She is currently sheltering at the Indian embassy waiting for her repatriation.
Fareeda’s case reflects a spike in trafficking cases reported in Oman, though the country has long served as a hub for trafficking from and through other GCC states. The corridor extends to both South Asia and African countries, where hundreds of cases have been documented in recent years.
In another recent case, Pavana, 24, had been promised employment as a domestic worker in Dubai but was trafficked with 8 other women to Oman, where they were forced to work without pay. Pavana was rescued and is now awaiting repatriation at the Indian embassy in Saudi Arabia.
The promise of work in the UAE is often used to lure migrants, especially women, to Oman. Sometimes the UAE is used as a transit point, but other times workers may also never step foot in the Emirates.
Protection mechanisms for workers in Oman are scarce. Oman’s labour law excludes domestic workers, making them especially vulnerable to trafficking and abuse. The country’s sparse domestic worker regulations (Article 7(4), Ministerial Decision no. 189/2004 on labour rules and conditions for domestic employees) do not regulate their working hours nor establish a minimum wage.
Omani authorities do not publish the number of trafficking cases in the country. According to the 2023 US Trafficking in Persons report, the government did not convict any traffickers of forced labour for five consecutive years, despite the prevalence of cases reported in the media. While Oman claims a decrease in the number of cases investigated by the Royal Oman Police, many instances of forced servitude simply never reach the courts. Migrant-Rights.org’s 2020 report on the situation of over 20 Sierra Leone women stranded in Oman detail the struggles trafficked workers encounter in seeking justice.