Oman trafficking survivor relives ordeal

By Theophilus Chuma

A human-trafficking victim has opened up on the torture that Zimbabweans are being subjected to in Oman, with revelations that a colleague desperately hangs to life by a thread as her employers are demanding close to US$3 000 for her release.

Deceived into slavery and sold for US$ 2 000 This is the story of women who are being lured for supposed lucrative opportunities as domestic helpers in Oman.

The country has become an unregulated black-market targeting girls and women.

Since 2013, the media has been awash with stories of migrant workers being abused in the Middle East.

Nine years down the line, the setting is the same and the stories are similar as more reports emerge of abuse, dehumanisation and gross underpayment of migrant workers in Oman.

Those lucky to escape describe the prevailing conditions in the gulf state as an encounter with hell.

“I thought of committing suicide because what was happening to me was just too much. The conditions were just worse. They would not give me food and sometimes they would go for two days and lock the fridge. They did not allow me to bath with soap. For the five months i was there i was never allowed to go out. I worked 19 hours with no rest,” she lamented.

Rutendo, not her real name, is fortunate to have survived this ordeal, but this is the torment that women are being subjected to with at least 100 Zimbabweans trapped as domestic workers in Oman.

She tells us of one of her friends Sekai who is staring death in the face as her employers are demanding a refund of US$3 000 for her release.

“Sekai is dying but the employers do not want to release her.  I heard that even in her sick condition they are beating her,” she said.

This is the grim reality faced by foreign migrant workers who are tied to their employers under the notorious Kafala system, a process which bonds a migrant worker to her employer until they are able to pay off what are termed sponsorship fees for their travel.

Rutendo exposes the cunning nature of the recruiting agents.

“My agent told me I was going to Ethiopia for a job there. Later it changed to Dubai, and i only found out i was going to Oman the day i was supposed to travel. They gave me a fake contract of which when i got to Oman my employer said this doesn’t work. Because they had bought me,” said Rutendo.

Dreams of brighter days slowly turned into her worst nightmare.

Rutendo escaped Oman last week and arrived in Zimbabwe this Saturday, with only a small bag to show for her troubles.

For her, life in Oman was but a parade of shuttered dreams.