Harare (New Ziana) – The government has initiated plans to repatriate Zimbabweans from Oman where a number of women, who migrated to that country on the promise of well-paying jobs, are allegedly being subjected to inhuman working conditions as domestic workers, a senior government official has said.
A weekend report by the Sunday Mail revealed that several Zimbabwean women were trapped in Oman where they are working as domestic workers under the Kafala visa sponsorship system, which ties workers to employers who bring them to Oman until their contracts end.
According to Zimbabwe’s ambassador to the United Arab of Emirates, Lovemore Mazemo, the women were allegedly being forced to work up to 18 hours a day, and were underpaid, not allowed to leave the house, denied sufficient food and had their passports taken away.
In light of this an Inter-ministerial committee on trafficking in persons met on Tuesday to seek ways to assist the alleged victims.
Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage permanent secretary Aaron Nhepera told the media after the meeting that engagements had started with Oman government though the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which is also part of the inter-ministerial committee.
He said the women were victims of a trafficking syndicate and estimates suggest that there could be as many as 100 Zimbabweans in Oman currently.
“Government is concerned about that development and as a committee we were deliberating on ways we can use to extricate our citizens from that situation which is certainly deplorable and unacceptable. Plans have been put in place to repatriate our citizens from that country,” he said.
“We have made a resolution to dispatch an investigation committee to Oman as soon as possible so that we can talk to the victims.”
Nhepera said repatriations would start as soon as more facts are gathered after talks with the Oman government.
“I cannot give you a date (of when repatriation will start) it depends on what progress will be made through the engagement,” he said.
He said some of the women were also victims of a previous trafficking scam that rocked the country a few years ago.
“We have also a very unfortunate situation where we have repatriated people who have been trafficked to other countries and a typical example is Kuwait. They come back home but they are again re-trafficked to other countries.
“We have a very worrying situation where somebody came from Kuwait and is now in Oman. She is a case which now needs repatriation but she went on her own and it is very worrying. But, government is doing the best it can to ensure that we get rid of this scourge.”
In 2016, the Zimbabwe government repatriated dozens of women who worked in domestic servitude in Kuwait.