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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Human trafficking in Oman, Is it true?

Anita Joseph
Saturday, June 21, 2008 12:37:20 AM
Oman Time

MUSCAT — The wave of resentment unleashed in the Sultanate over the recent US report on human trafficking seems to be strong, with even Americans in the country frowning at the report. “Oman is a very tolerant country, with proper laws and measures in place to prevent human trafficking,” says Fred Rowe, an American who has been living in the Sultanate for the last seven years. “I’m not sure how and why the US has come up with such a report,” he adds.
Ever since the report was published earlier this month, Muscateers have been coming out in large numbers to decry it, saying it is false and fabricated. Residents of all ages and nationalities have been vouching hard for the country’s spirit of tolerance, equality and multiculturalism.
“Oman is a very fair and free country. There is nothing like what is cited in the report,” says Manini, an Indian expatriate who has been living in Muscat for the last 25 years. “I am really amazed by the report. I don’t know on what basis they are assessing all these things. I would say this country is one of the most peaceful and tolerant in the world.” The controversial ‘US State Dept. Trafficking in Persons’ report states: “The government of Oman does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. Oman failed to report any law enforcement activities to prosecute and punish trafficking offences this year under the existing legislation. The government also continues to lack victim protection services or a systematic procedure to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations, such as undocumented migrants and women arrested for prostitution.”
The report divides countries into three tiers; the first tier comprises countries that comply with basic US standards. The second tier includes countries that make intensive efforts to comply with these standards while the third tier includes the countries that neglect to comply with even the minimum of standards to fight human trafficking or make tangible efforts to improve their records. Oman is listed under Tier 3.
The Sultanate however, is not buying the argument. The Majlis Al Shura has, in a severely worded statement, condemned the report. Majlis Al Shura Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Isa’ee, says the State Department report is ‘false’, emphasising that Oman has always adhered to ‘the solid values that called for respect of man and his dignity’.
The country’s laws and regulations, he says, secure human rights, freedom and dignity for all, without discrimination between citizens and expatriates. Even Amnesty International, in its ‘Report 2008’ has acknowledged Oman’s role in ‘Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination’, upholding the ‘Rights of the Child’, Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women’ etc as the country is a signatory to various conventions and treaties. “Human trafficking? There is nothing like that over here. The report is extremely biased and unjustified, to say the least,” says Josie, a Dutch national who has been living in Muscat for the last 10 years. “The rules are very strict here and no one is allowed to come and go without proper documentation. That being the case, I can confidently say there is absolutely no trafficking of any sort happening here.” Philippine national Fernando has the same thing to say. “I have been to most countries of the world in the course of my business and I can definitely say that Oman is one country where there is no such thing has human trafficking or bonded labour or any such forms of exploitation.
The rules here are strict and the government implements them thoroughly. So there is no scope for any such underhand activities to happen.” Leading members of the public have also lambasted the report. “When we heard about the report, we were shocked,” says Tahir Malik.
Published in Times of Oman on 21 June 2008

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