International Migrants Day – 18 December

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In 2015, among its responses to the Human Rights Council’s Second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Oman, the Sultanate stated: “There are no migrant workers in Oman, but only expatriate workers… who come to Oman to work under temporary employment contracts.”[1] Even so, this does not exempt Oman from providing the necessary protection for expatriates coming to work in the country.

The Omani Centre for Human Rights (OCHR) has received numerous complaints and reports of expatriate workers being subjected to various forms of abuse, such as violence and the withholding of salaries.

Most workers are denied the right to retain their official documents, such as passports, while female domestic workers are denied time off, exploited in terms of their hours of work, or even forced to work in more than one home for no extra pay.

There are also sponsors who abuse the power of their position to force workers to pay monthly sums for the sponsorship to continue, or exploit them by getting them to do unpaid private jobs for the sponsor.

Although Oman has introduced a Wage Protection System that allows the Ministry of Manpower to monitor payment of wages in some large corporations, small enterprises are beyond government regulation.

Some workers suffer arbitrary dismissal without even prior notice and without payment of money owed to them.

Some workers are forced to pay back the cost of renewing their residence permits and their travel costs if they want to return to their own countries.

Most workers who suffer physical violence from their sponsors do not submit complaints to the police or relevant authorities for fear of negative repercussions and possible termination of their contracts.

Physical assaults and exploitation happen all the time in Oman, but the legislative powers have not as yet passed the requisite laws to deter such occurrences.

In its 2015 UPR response, Oman said: “The term kafala is not used in current labour legislation”,[2] but then in subsequent statements promised that the government would work to abolish the kafala (sponsorship) system.[3]

Officials have since announced that Oman intends to abolish, from 2021, the use of No Objection Certificates (NOCs) as laid down in Article 11 of the Foreigners Residence Law, as a step towards abolishing the kafala system in Oman and improving labour market conditions.[4]  The Article prohibits any foreigner who has previously worked in Oman from receiving an entry visa for two years from the date of their last departure.[5],[6]

Omani law allows employers to transfer foreign employees to other employers without requiring the consent of the employees themselves. Employers can even do this online! [7]

Meanwhile, people who enter Oman illegally to work are arrested and incarcerated in disgusting, unhygienic “accommodation centres” that are in fact prisons packed with up to 20 or even more inmates per cell.

The average wages paid in Oman are another blatant violation of the rights of migrant workers, as well as quite a lot of Omani citizens. There is no official minimum fair wage specifically for the private sector, and the current laws present insurmountable obstacles for workers. They violate workers’ basic rights as human beings, by allowing salaries that are not enough for them to live decently, in suitable housing, with the ability to feed their families and meet their basic living requirements in return for the work they do.

If circumstances forced you to leave your country in search of a living, would you consider laws that treated you as an employer’s personal property to be fair?


[1] https://undocs.org/A/HRC/31/11/Add.1, para. 129.44 with Footnote 3

[2] Ibid. paras 129.201–129.204

[3] https://bawabaa.org/news/218040

[4] https://wafoman.com/2020/06/16/oman-takes-a-step-towards-abolishing-kafala/?lang=en

[5] https://www.rop.gov.om/pdfs/roplaws/ROPRULE-7.pdf

[6] https://gulfmigration.org/oman-foreigners-residence-law/

[7] https://www.manpower.gov.om/ManpowerAllEServices/Details/Work-Permit-Transfer-Individuals-286