[ Human Trafficking, Country-by-Country ]

OMAN (Tier 2) Extracted in part  from the U.S. State Dept 2023 TIP Report

The Government of Oman does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.  The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Oman remained on Tier 2.  These efforts included initiating prosecutions of alleged labor traffickers, including an Omani national, convicting sex traffickers and upgrading its specialized anti-trafficking police unit to increase capacity to investigate trafficking cases.  Officials also identified more trafficking victims overall, including labor trafficking victims.  Following reports of African and Asian domestic workers being subjected to indicators of forced labor by their employers in Oman, the government also suspended the issuance of visas for citizens of such countries and no longer allowed nationals from such countries to arrive on tourist visas and convert them to work visas to prevent exploitation of such workers in Oman.  However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas.  The government investigated and prosecuted fewer alleged traffickers overall compared with previous years and did not convict any traffickers for the forced labor of migrant workers – the largest trafficking problem in Oman – for the fifth consecutive year.  Although it investigated some forced labor cases, these efforts were inadequate considering the reported scale of domestic servitude cases involving more than 1,000 nationals from at least 19 countries in Oman during the year that the government did not investigate or criminally prosecute.  Instead, officials continued to routinely use arbitration and administrative penalties to resolve grievances filed by migrant domestic workers.  Additionally, in some cases exploited workers were forced to pay “release fees” to their sponsors or employers in order to leave the country prior to their contract expiration, which likely perpetuated unidentified victims’ trafficking situations if they could not pay to secure their release.  In some cases, the government also likely further penalized unidentified domestic servitude victims through arrest and detention, including for “absconding” charges filed by their employer.  Domestic worker legal protections remained weak, and hotlines and grievance mechanisms were reportedly inaccessible for some workers.  Finally, the government did not consistently hold recruitment agencies accountable for domestic worker mistreatment or labor law violations.

Prioritized Recommendations

Significantly increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including Omani nationals and recruitment agencies, of forced labor crimes, specifically of migrant workers, including domestic servitude.  

Given concerns of domestic workers being exploited in conditions indicative of forced labor by Omani employers, thoroughly investigate reports of abuse and consider such cases as potential trafficking cases if indicators are present, and refer potential labor trafficking victims to care, instead of returning the worker to their alleged trafficker.  

Implement Ministerial Decision 189/2004 to allow domestic workers – in cases of abuse – to terminate a contract without notice and without paying “release fees” as penalty for early contract termination and penalize employers, sponsors, and recruitment offices who demand such fees from workers.  

Operationalize the newly developed NRM and train officials on procedures to proactively identify and refer to care both male and female trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as migrant workers, including domestic workers, persons in commercial sex, and those who flee abusive employers and situations of forced labor, and prevent the penalization of unidentified victims by utilizing formal screening protocols.  

Expand labor law protections to, and enforce legal protections for, domestic workers.  

Continue to expand trainings for officials involved in criminal investigations and for hotline operators to ensure accurate characterization of trafficking crimes and ensure hotlines and other grievance mechanisms are accessible for workers to submit complaints.  

Hold non-compliant recruitment offices criminally accountable for domestic worker mistreatment or violations of the labor law by increasing inspections and enforcing adequate penalties.  

Investigate officials allegedly complicit in trafficking crimes and pursue criminal prosecutions if trafficking indicators are present.  

Impose dissuasive penalties on employers and recruitment agents who withhold foreign workers’ passports.  

Increase use of specialized trafficking units within the Ministry of Labor (MOL), the Royal Oman Police (ROP), and Public Prosecutor’s Office (PPO) to investigate indicators of potential trafficking crimes, specifically those that originate as labor violations.  

Ensure effective implementation of recent reforms to the sponsorship-based employment system by increasing awareness of reforms among migrant worker population and employers.  

Disseminate to stakeholders the decision that allows potential victims to self-refer to protective services and amend the provision that stipulates they can only reside in the shelter long-term if they file charges against, or there is a corresponding prosecution of, an alleged trafficker.  

Fully implement the NAP for 2021-2023.  

Continue to conduct country-wide public awareness campaigns on all forms of trafficking, specifically targeted to vulnerable populations, including domestic workers and their employers.