Oman making significant efforts in fighting human trafficking: US report
Oman is in the Tier 2 Watch List of the Trafficking in Persons Report 2018. The US State Department report said that though Oman maintained the same status as last year, the sultanate has made significant strides.
“The government demonstrated increasing efforts by investigating, prosecuting and convicting more suspected traffickers and setting up a specialised anti-trafficking prosecution unit. This is in addition to identifying more victims and providing them with robust care,” the report said.
Donald Buechner, human trafficking expert in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), said the number of cases in the sultanate is small. “We are working to move to Tier 1 and increasing our efforts to raise awareness among the public and are prosecuting human traffickers. We are also working on the procedures to alleviate human trafficking in Oman and to have standardised processes as per the standards of the rest of the world,” he told Muscat Daily.
On prostitution and sex trafficking, Buechner said, “People should not solicit prostitutes because it can lead to human trafficking. The Royal Oman Police is doing a fantastic job in trying to stop prostitution in Oman. So we are working on many different aspects to move to Tier 1.
“To get there, we need to increase public awareness for employers to understand that they cannot keep employee passports. They must follow the contract; they cannot renegotiate the contracts. Employers must know better than to abuse workers. The most common form of trafficking, I would say, is labour trafficking which is the hardest to detect as often times it is behind closed doors. So those workers can be vulnerable.”
According to the report, Oman has increased its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. “While the government increased investigations, prosecutions and convictions, its efforts to criminally prosecute forced labour crimes remained weak.
“Oman’s 2008 anti-trafficking law criminalised labour and sex trafficking and prescribed punishments of three to seven years imprisonment and a fine of between RO5,000 and RO100,000 for offences involving adult victims and seven to 15 years imprisonment and a minimum fine of RO10,000 for offences involving child victims,” the report said.
On whether No Objection Certificates (NOCs) from employers would reduce human trafficking, Buechner said, “I think the removal of NOC letters will definitely take away some human trafficking because some workers feel trapped with their sponsors.
“NOCs are always a big concern and I know some other countries in the Gulf region have recently moved away from the practice and it seems to be helping them in stopping some human trafficking.”
According to the US State Department report, the government reported investigating nine alleged human trafficking cases - six sex trafficking and three for forced labour - as compared to one sex trafficking case and one forced labour case investigated during the previous reporting period.