Muscat: “I migrated to support my family, but didn’t even dream that I would have to undergo this much trouble. I was mentally and physically tortured by agents and left to starve too...
“I am begging everyone not to fall prey to fake agents. Please don’t migrate without knowing the details properly. Whatever you earn, try to adjust with that in your home country itself. You will be duped. This is what I have to say...it’s my plea.”
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Monica, an Indian women who came to Ajman in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and was then forcefully brought to Oman to work as a housemaid, is one of the lucky ones.
Last week, she was rescued by a social worker from Sohar and moved to the Indian embassy. She has endured sexual assault, beatings and had her passport and phone taken away from her before being kept prisoner by a trafficking gang.
Monica, 29, was duped by an Indian agent in Mumbai and sent to the UAE.
“I was told that I was going on a visit visa to UAE. As I was not aware of the procedures, I did whatever they said. And when I reached UAE, I found that I had landed in the wrong place,” Monica said.
“It was a shelter where many other Indian girls were also kept. They kept on torturing us. They seized our passports and phones. When I asked for the phone to call my children, they said I have been brought to do a job and not to make calls. Even a dog wouldn’t eat the food they used to give us,” Monica added.
According to Monica, after a few weeks in the UAE, she was handed over to Omani trafficking agents for OMR500.
“I don’t know what was the job conditions and all. I was forced to travel to Oman. I begged in front of them, but they didn’t listen. I just wanted to return home but it didn’t happen,” Monica added.
In 2011, tightening the recruitment rules, India and Oman, made certain changes aimed at protecting migrant housemaids from abuse and providing skilled manpower to Omani households.
According to the changes, employers are required to produce a salary certificate of OMR1,000 and a bank guarantee of OMR1,100 before recruiting a housemaid.
These changes have made the recruitment of Indian women as housemaids in Oman difficult for employers.
According to the Indian government norms, any women below 30 years old cannot migrate as a housemaid or unskilled worker to a foreign country from India. Monica is 29.
However, migrants’ rights activists and social workers say that Indian woman migrate to the UAE with false papers and are duped by agents operating in India and abroad.
“Many women duped by Indian and foreign agents, migrate to UAE with false papers, even though the government has put in place all kinds of measures to prevent trafficking.
“Women go to UAE on visit visas and then they are moved to Oman by agents on job visas,” Rafeek Ravuther, a migrants’ rights activist who also hosts a TV programme in India for the last 15 years to find missing migrants, said.
“People know that it is quite hard to migrate to Oman as housemaids. So, they take these kind of dubious ways,” Rafeek said, adding that the lapses in Indian airports is leading to this situation.
“Without proper papers and without following the system, how can officers allow women to migrate?” Rafeek added.
Rafeek has filed three cases with the Indian government’s grievances cell on behalf of relatives of three trafficked women in Oman.
He has also dealt with 47 trafficked Indian women cases in Saudi Arabia.
Another migrants’ rights activist from the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu said that they have come across two cases of Indian women being trafficked to Oman from UAE this year.
“In co-ordination with the Indian embassy and other officials, the women were brought back to India,” Josephine Amala Valarmathi, from National Domestic Workers’ Movement, said.
In 2015 December, Sushma Swaraj, Indian External Affairs minister, said in parliament that more than 7,000 complaints of exploitation came from men and women working in the Gulf Cooperation Council in 2015.
Meanwhile, the social worker in Sohar who rescued Monica, said that during the last four months he has come across 12 trafficked cases.
“All 12 women were forcefully brought to Oman from UAE and where rescued and handed over to the Indian embassy,” the social worker, who wanted to remain anonymous, said.
In May, the Indian embassy made a request to the immigration department in Oman to ask recruiters to obtain a no-objection certificate from the Indian embassy while hiring an Indian housemaid. That system is now in place.