The Zimbabwean government has said it is in the process of repatriating Zimbabwean women allegedly trapped in abusive working conditions as domestic workers under the Kafala visa sponsorship system in Oman, in the Middle East.
The Permanent Secretary of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Nick Mangwana, warned members of the public against travelling under the arrangement he described as slavery. He said:
Government is seized with the issue of repatriating 30 Zimbabwean ladies who travelled to Oman to work as domestic workers under a ‘sponsorship’ programme known as the kafala system. This is servitude and the public is warned against travelling to work under this arrangement. It’s slavery.
In 2016, the Zimbabwean government repatriated dozens of women who worked in domestic servitude in Kuwait.
The Kafala system of employment ties domestic workers to employers who bring them to Oman and they cannot move to new jobs before the end of their contracts.
An article published in the state-owned Sunday Mail newspaper included a report from Zimbabwe’s ambassador to the United Arab of Emirates (UAE), Lovemore Mazemo, quoting him as saying the women were forced to work up to 18 hours a day, underpaid, not allowed to leave the house, denied sufficient food and had their passports taken away. Reads the report:
As a way forward, the embassy strongly recommends that the department of social welfare should consider taking action to rescue some of the maids by raising the money which the employers of the maids are demanding back.
Two of the maids are now displaying suicidal mentalities much to the fear of Zimbabweans in Oman. The two maids openly told consular officers that they were seriously considering committing suicide as a way to end their suffering and enslavement. The government may wish to consider banning Zimbabwean nationals from migrating to Oman to work as maids.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) described the kafala system as abusive and exploitive. It proposed the system be abolished.
More: The Sunday Mail