Muscat: Human trafficking cases in Oman have dropped by over 30 per cent in 2018 compared to the previous year, according to the Ministry of Social Development.
Marwah Al Balushi, legal adviser at the Family Protection division at the Ministry said that in 2018 there were only 14 recorded cases of human trafficking, down from 20 in 2017. So far this year Oman has recorded seven human trafficking cases brought to Dar al Wifaq temporary shelter: six of the victims were Bangladeshi and one was from Nepal.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Shuwain Al Hosni, Chairman of Oman Human Rights Commission (OHRC) told Times of Oman that the reason for the decrease in cases is due to the continuous effort by agencies such as the Royal Oman Police, the Public Prosecution, and the Ministry of Social Development to curb human trafficking.
“Oman has vowed to continue combatting the causes of human trafficking and to protect victims,” Al Hosni said, “There is no doubt that we have been blessed in Oman with a dwindling number of cases each year, and there are many reasons for it. Our religion, our customs and traditions and our principle of respect for others are all factors as are the efforts of government institutions in Oman who work to curb this plague. For these reasons, Oman has a much smaller trafficking problem than other countries.”
On Monday, Oman’s Human Rights Commission held a seminar on human trafficking, looking at individual cases and the role of both Royal Oman Police and Dar Al Wifaq in dealing with victims.
Dar Al Wifaq is the centre which temporarily houses victims of human trafficking. Speaking about the procedure by which these women are cared for, Al Balushi told Times of Oman, “In most cases, these women flee from their work, and then they are lured by people who abuse them. When that case is reported to the ROP and the woman is rescued, she is questioned by the ROP and the Public Prosecution, and then she goes through a medical screening and brought to Dar al Wifaq.”
Once at the centre, the women are cared for and supported until their legal procedures are completed.
“We provide medical and mental check-ups to the women, and we offer legal advice and education programmes as well, as some of them do not know Arabic or may not know how to read,” added Al Balushi.
“We also supply the women with pocket money and weekly phone calls to their families. The women only stay until their court cases are complete, then we provide them with the means to travel back to their home countries. We try to supply them with enough money so that they can go back to their village and families rather than be stranded at the airport,” Al Balushi said.
While Oman records a small number of human trafficking cases annually, Assistant Public Prosecutor Nasser Al Riyami believes that agencies can sometimes struggle with identifying cases.
Coercion or fraud
“Human trafficking can be identified as the transport, harbour, retrieval, or employment of a person by way of force, coercion, or fraud,” Al Riyami said “There are cases where workers flee from their employers or prostitution. In such cases, if you investigate you will find that the case is related to trafficking. But not all human trafficking cases are that simple.”
Human trafficking case
Marwa Al Balushi described to Times of Oman a horrifying case in Sohar from 2016. An expat mother of two had fled after working for two days and was tricked into entering a house with a stranger. She was then sexually abused and dropped off a 3-storey building, breaking her bones and making her unable to protect herself. The woman remained in Darl al Wifaq for more than a year.