The Government is working on ascertaining the number and identities of Zimbabwean nationals working as domestic workers in Oman who are seeking to return home.
This comes after the Zimbabwean Embassy in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, on 18 February sent an official delegation led by Counsellor Onismo Chigejo to Muscat, the capital of Oman, on a two-day fact-finding mission after receiving numerous calls from distressed Zimbabwean nationals.
The delegation established that Zimbabwean expatriate workers were living and working under appaling conditions.
Some of the Zimbabwean nationals complained of constant beatings, overwork, underpayment and forced labour, among other abuses.
The delegation also found out that several women had developed suicidal tendencies because of the harsh living and working conditions.
Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister David Musabayana said the Government was aware of the matter and working on it. He said:
We have heard about the story, it actually came through my desk. We have asked these workers to form groups so that we have an appreciation of the number of people affected.
We have since activated our systems and notified the Social Welfare Department, Home Affairs and all other Government institutions involved so that we can verify who these people are.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Paul Mavima said his ministry was yet to get the report. Said Mavima:
Once we receive the report and go through it, we will make deliberations and intervene by engaging both governments to map a way forward.
It is imperative that those workers be brought back home if necessary and we will handle it the way we did those who were in Kuwait.
In 2016, the Government repatriated dozens of Zimbabwean women who were living and working under slave-like conditions in Kuwait.
According to a report on the situation in Oman from Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to the UAE, Lovemore Mazemo addressed to Foreign Affairs and International Trade Secretary, James Manzou, most of the Zimbabwean women were recruited by agents in Zimbabwe and South Africa.
The agents in Zimbabwe secure visas and air tickets for the domestic workers by sending copies of the women’s passports to sponsors in Oman.
When the women arrive in Oman, they are received by the sponsor who then sends them to families in need of domestic workers.
Oman uses the kafala labour system which requires all migrant workers to have an in-country sponsor, usually their employer, who is responsible for their visa and legal status.
The system is used to monitor migrant labourers, working primarily in the construction and domestic sectors in the Gulf States.