She was twenty-two when she was orphaned together with her younger sister, and all responsibility for taking care of her siblings then fell on her. A woman from Sierra Leone, West Africa, going by the fictitious name Aisha out of fear, wanted to give her sister an education. But they didn’t have enough money for that.
Purely by chance, the girl heard from her neighbor about a man who provides people like her with work abroad. Those who were once poor are suddenly making a lot of money, building houses and accumulating wealth. At least according to the stories.
It didn’t take long before Aisha decided to get to know the man. They agreed on cooperation: he promised the girl a job in Baghdad, Iraq, and an income of up to 500 US dollars a month (about 12.5 thousand crowns in conversion). Within a few months, Aisha flew away, but in January 2021 she landed in Oman instead of Iraq.
“I called my recruiter and told him that I didn’t want to come to this country. He promised me that he would send me to Baghdad, but I was in Oman,” quotes Aishu in her report from the NGO Do Bold, which deals with the problems of foreigners employed abroad. “Finally, he stopped answering my phones and answering my messages,” added the girl.
She spent all her savings on a plane ticket “to Baghdad”, visas and work papers. She therefore had no way to return home from the Middle Eastern sultanate. She started working, but instead of the promised five hundred dollars, she didn’t earn even half. At the same time, she cleaned, cooked and ironed eighteen hours a day, both at her employer’s house and at his mother’s house.
Modern slavery is ubiquitous. It affects all the countries of the world and is happening right before our eyes. “It could be workers in a British car wash, sex workers in Thailand or entire Indian villages,” says Kevin Bales of the University of Nottingham on the Seznam Správ podcast.
Aisha’s case had a happy ending: after a few months, she managed to contact the NGO Do Bold, which secured her a ticket home.
But her story is not unique. Foreign women employed as domestic helpers in Oman are often abused and subjected to violence. Do Bold received the testimony of 469 women from Sierra Leone employed in the sultanate. All but one, the organization found, were victims of human trafficking.
According to the report, 78 percent of the women were hired fraudulently, 80 percent of them worked 16 to 20 hours a day, and 99 percent were not entitled to time off. The vast majority could not move freely, more than half of them had their wages stolen, roughly the same number faced physical violence, about a third sexual.
“For all the women we spoke to, this was a crisis that had a significant impact on their health and well-being. The question arises as to what needs to be done to solve this problem,” Do Bold founder and director Ekaterina Porrasova Sivolobova told the British newspaper The Guardian.
The best thing would be for abused women to leave their jobs as quickly as possible. But that is almost impossible for them in Oman. As reported by The Guardian, foreign women work there in the so-called kafala system, which gives legal responsibility for employees to the employer.
If the employee then breaks the agreement and leaves, or even runs away if he is a victim of abuse, this is considered a crime in Oman punishable by prison terms.
The organization called on the country to improve monitoring of human trafficking and provide victims with access to justice. The Omani government has not yet responded to the findings of the Do Bold report.