At least 100 Zimbabweans are living in slavery-like conditions in Oman after being recruited on false job promises.
Oman is a country in Western Asia, situated on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, sharing land borders with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen; while sharing maritime borders with Iran and Pakistan.
The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Aaron Nhepera, told journalists in Harare on Tuesday that 18 cases have hitherto been reported.
Reports indicate that scores of Zimbabwean women who were recruited by agents to work as housemaids in Oman are now stranded and have no means to return home.
Their employers reportedly seized their passports to stop them from escaping and also routinely sexually abuse them.
Nhepera said the Government will engage the Oman government to facilitate the repatriation of the stranded Zimbabweans. He said:
Our prosecution pillar which involves the police and the courts were handling 18 cases.
But we do know that there could be more people that have not reported, but by way of estimation, we think we could be having as many as 100 people in Oman currently.
We are just starting our engagement with the government of Oman. We are doing that through the Foreign Affairs ministry which happens to be part of our committee.
The other resolution we have made is to dispatch an investigation committee to Oman as soon as possible so that they can talk to the 18 victims.
As soon as we have engaged the Oman government to deliberate on these issues, we will start repatriating our people home.
I cannot give you a date. It depends on the progress we make through the engagements.
Why are Zimbabweans going to Oman?
Nhepera suggested various reasons why people go to Oman and end up being enslaved. He said:
The reason why our people are in this situation is because of poverty, not having good jobs and not being well settled in their houses…others are going there because they would have heard of good job opportunities without necessarily scrutinising these places.
We urge Zimbabweans to scrutinise job offers from abroad so that they cannot fall victim to human trafficking.
We also urge citizens to consult our law enforcement agents with regard to information about foreign countries that would have offered jobs to them.