Modern day slavery in the middle east

Modern day slavery in the middle east

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Modern day slavery in the middle east

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Dinuli Francisco

Auctioning of SL Women in Oman

International enslavement remains a modern-day scourge that affects the world. Due to Sri Lanka’s present economic crisis, more Sri Lankan women will become enslaved as many more leave the country to escape poverty; Our darkest worries have now come true.


Thousands of domestic workers from South and South-East Asia move to Oman in search of steady employment in local houses in order to escape poverty and support their families back home.


Once they get to Oman, their new employers often grab their passports, preventing them from leaving whenever they choose and eventually restricting their freedom of movement.


They are forced to endure long working hours, lack of sleep, and malnutrition. Many people experience physical or verbal abuse and are often refused the wages they have worked so hard to earn.


In Oman, violations of housemaids’ rights continue to be a serious issue for both society and the government. They portray a very different picture of the nation than what the administration wants the outside world to perceive.


Society as a whole cannot be held accountable, nor can the abuse housemaids experience be reduced to isolated incidents that happen because there are no laws protecting them.


The Criminal Investigation Department has discovered further evidence on a sizable human trafficking ring that ‘auctions’ Sri Lankan women who have been sent to Oman under the pretense of finding employment there. 

 
Issues concerning the terrible plight of Sri Lankan female domestic employees in Oman were reported to the CID by the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Sri Lanka, according to SSP W.M. Samarakoon Banda, the Director of Human Trafficking Human Smuggling and Maritime Crimes of CID.


A three-person CID team headed by the director of the divisions investigating maritime crime and human trafficking set out to Oman on October 3 to start the investigation.


The investigating authorities discovered that the 45 Sri Lankan women who were interviewed for their testimony had entered Oman on tourist visas. They are being protected at a safe house run by the Sri Lankan Embassy in Muscat. They also disclosed that these women left the houses where they worked for various reasons, including the harassment they experienced. Out of the 45 women staying in the safe house, 6 have run away from the houses due to overwork, and 8 more have been illegally brought to Oman across the border.


It was further disclosed that the women in issue are trapped in Oman since their employers have their passports.
Meanwhile, a female employee of a Sri Lankan job agency had auctioned off another woman for prostitution, according to SSP Banda. The investigators were informed that sultans had purchased Sri Lankan domestic employees in an auction for prices ranging from Rs. 1 million to Rs. 2.5 million.


To make things worse, a Sri Lankan Embassy staff has allegedly sexually harassed the women staying at the safe house. Further investigations into the situation revealed that the Immigration and Emigration Department personnel who were stationed in Oman and Sri Lanka were the middlemen in this sex trafficking network. The officer working for the Sri Lankan Embassy in Oman who was suspected of committing these horrific acts has reportedly been suspended, according to the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau. E.K. Kushan, an officer serving as the third secretary in the Sri Lankan Embassy in Oman has been suspended. They had targeted local ladies from disadvantaged backgrounds who were struggling financially, SSP Banda said. Minister Manusha Nanayakkara told the parliament that he has been interdicted and will be brought back to the country where he will be arrested on arrival, and will be investigated.


Senior officials from the Foreign Employment Bureau detailed the situation, saying that out of the 45 women, 43 are stuck in Oman without the means to return home since they entered the country on visit visas with the intention of converting them to work visas.


At least 90 female domestic workers from Sri Lanka are now trapped in Oman and requesting aid with returning home, according to a statement from the Sri Lankan Embassy in Muscat. The costs associated with repatriation, including those for a visa, an overstay fine, a flight, agency fees, and the cost of hiring new employees, are beyond their means.


The embassy said that in order to help these victims, it has also asked the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for help.


SSP W.M. Samarakoon Banda – Director of Human Trafficking Human Smuggling and Maritime Crimes of CID, spoke with Daily Mirror extensively regarding the background of these incidents. “ Human trafficking and human smuggling are two different scenarios that we encounter. Human trafficking is the practice of using men, women, or children as slaves or as objects of commercial sex. In human smuggling, service is given to a person willingly trying to enter a foreign nation illegally (usually transportation or false papers). Therefore, it’s probable that the crime begins as human smuggling but swiftly develops into trafficking in people. Moreover, it is important to note that even though women are sent legally, that does not mean they can be taken as sex objects or exploited; then again, it falls into the category of human trafficking,” he highlighted.


“The agencies that send people overseas must be first registered agencies, and they must provide training to these people based on whatever job they are willing to take, and then must be registered with the foreign employment bureau. And then, an agreement must be signed between the domestic workers and the employers. If these legal procedures are skipped, automatically it becomes illegal,” he underlined.

We have identified around six such agencies involved in human trafficking activities. We are in the process of investigating the validity of their registrations. They also have sub-agencies that make us difficult to track. Even if they are registered with the foreign employment bureau, an agreement must be signed between the employer and the domestic worker. Consequences are serious if no contract agreements are signed and no proper training is provided. This is an extensive process that needs filtering and clearance”, he added.


Moreover, he said that most women are not sent for pre-arranged jobs; when they are sent, they are received by a Sri Lankan agent there. Then these housemaids are taken to their offices, but they do not have a procedure to provide jobs legally to these people. Therefore, these housemaids are lined up, and they are chosen by employers according to their whims and fancies. Accordingly, the selection criteria lie based on body shape and skin colour. This is where human trafficking occurs”, he further explained.


Meanwhile, a prime suspect who employed women in Oman and Abu Dhabi in violation of the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau Act was arrested at the Katunayake International Airport on Friday(18). The suspect was produced before the Negombo Magistrate’s Court on Saturday and was remanded until 
November 24(today).


The Foreign Employment Bureau had received a complaint regarding the suspect taking 12 women to Abu Dhabi and trying to send them across the border to Oman. The 44-year-old suspect, who ran a foreign employment agency in the Maradana area, is Mohammad Rizvi Mohammad Rizwan.


During the interrogations, it was revealed that he had allegedly sent the women to Oman on tourist visas even though his agency license had expired. Investigations have revealed that the women have been forced into sexual activities and subjected to labour exploitation.


It has also been revealed that the suspect has been taking Sri Lankan women sent by other foreign employment agencies on tourist visas to Oman in violation of border laws for some time. Because of these allegations, the court has banned the suspect from travelling abroad.


Who exactly was the mastermind behind the sex enslavement scheme is unclear. The suspect in custody has disputed the claims.


A woman with ties to a sex trafficking ring in Oman turned herself into Sri Lanka’s Criminal Investigations Department (CID) on Monday (21). She was later released on two personal bails of Rs. 300,000/- each.
Another two more men were arrested for their alleged link to the sex trafficking ring in Oman on Tuesday(22). Accordingly, a total of five people have been arrested by Sri Lankan authorities for their links to a sex trafficking ring.


On Friday, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena informed Parliament that anybody found guilty of trafficking Sri Lankan women to nations like Oman will face harsh penalties. The Prime Minister stressed that based on surveys undertaken so far, over 1.6 million persons have departed for foreign jobs in Gulf nations without following the necessary registration procedures, even though close to 1 million people have registered with the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment.


Daily Mirror also learned that the Minister of Labor and Foreign Employment Manusha Nanayakkara and the Minister of Public Security Tiran Alles is to intensify the operations to arrest persons involved in human trafficking and human smuggling who illegally send people abroad in violation of the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau Act. Accordingly, raids will be conducted across the island. 

 
According to information available with the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau, 12 Sri Lankan women at the Safe-House in Oman run by the Sri Lankan Embassy have registered themselves with the SLFEB, and another 65 have used visit visas to travel to Oman, citing other reasons to Sri Lankan authorities, Minister Manusha Nanayakkara revealed to the parliament on Tuesday, 22.


The Minister also said that although it is easy to repatriate Sri Lankans who have registered with the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau and run into trouble abroad, there is rising worry about the number of people who are exploiting visit visas for employment.


According to the investigations, legal action was taken in response to more than 100 instances of abuse, and some offenders were detained.

Daily Mirror