Viewing cable 06MUSCAT1048
Title: TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS: ASIAN AMBASSADORS OFFER

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
06MUSCAT10482006-07-02 13:20:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Muscat
VZCZCXRO7054
PP RUEHDE
DE RUEHMS #1048/01 1831320
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 021320Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY MUSCAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6827
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 0047
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0027
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 0285
RUEHML/AMEMBASSY MANILA 0032
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0279
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MUSCAT 001048 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR G/TIP (G. PATEL, M. TAYLOR), DRL (J. DEMARIA) 
STATE ALSO FOR NEA/ARP, NEA/PI 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: ELAB PHUM SMIG PBTS PREL MU
SUBJECT: TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS: ASIAN AMBASSADORS OFFER 
VIEWS 
 
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Summary 
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¶1. (SBU) In a June 27 working lunch hosted by the Ambassador, 
colleagues from labor-source countries outlined problems 
faced by their nationals, to include salary arrears, lack of 
legal status, and in some cases physical or sexual assault. 
Their suggested improvements include additional labor 
protections for domestic workers, stricter enforcement of 
visa regulations, formal Omani sanction of the shelters 
several embassies operate (vice government-run shelters), and 
substantial revision to the way police handle assault and 
rape cases.  These suggestions will be added to our bilateral 
discussions with Oman on possible steps to strengthen 
trafficking in persons protections.  End summary. 
 
¶2. (SBU) The Ambassador hosted a June 27 luncheon for the 
ambassadors of the Philippines, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and 
Pakistan (India's ambassador regretted), as well as the 
UNICEF country director, to discuss trafficking in persons 
(TIP) concerns in Oman. 
 
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Border Visas Circumvent Vetting Process 
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¶3. (SBU) Philippine Ambassador Acmed Omar said there were 
25,000 Filipinos in Oman, about 75 percent of whom work as 
domestics.  For those entering the Sultanate on labor visas, 
the Philippine Embassy must have first issued a 
"non-objection certificate" (NOC) to the Omani government, 
which helps ensure the labor contract stipulates an 
appropriate wage and is issued by a reputable employer.  Most 
problems arise when Filipinos are recruited in the United 
Arab Emirates, and then enter Oman via land on a 
border-issued tourist visa.  As those labor arrangements 
skirt formal vetting, they account for half of the most 
serious problems related to payment of wages or immigration 
status.  Sri Lankan Ambassador Meersahib Mahroof complained 
of the same problem, adding that there are approximately 
20,000 Sri Lankans working in Oman as domestics.  The two 
ambassadors estimated that problem cases involving laborers 
with border visas typically number four-five per month. 
(Note: India, the Philippines and Sri Lanka are the principle 
source countries for domestic laborers in Oman.  End note.) 
 
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Sponsors Violate the Law 
------------------------ 
 
¶4. (SBU) The ambassadors agreed that most labor abuses 
entailed work sponsors simply not upholding their 
obligations: not paying the full contract wage, failing to 
renew work visas, failing to pay return passage, or paying no 
wages at all.  The Sri Lankan ambassador noted that some of 
these unpaid domestics are simply deposited at his embassy 
and left for him to find a way to repatriate them.  The most 
vulnerable workers are those lacking legal documentation 
(either through the sponsor's fault, or if the employee is 
using a forged or substitute passport), whom the sponsor 
could then threaten to report to the authorities.  Ambassador 
Mahroof said Sri Lanka is adopting new passports that will be 
less susceptible to such deceptions, but worried that the new 
passports will also have 10-year validity.  With current 
5-year validity, Sri Lankan laborers are more likely to come 
to the embassy for passport renewal, at which point the Sri 
Lankan consular officer is able to question them about their 
working conditions. 
 
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Pakistan's Special Case 
----------------------- 
 
¶5. (SBU) Pakistan Ambassador Javed Hafiz noted that his labor 
problems are somewhat different.  In addition to the 
estimated 47,000 legal Pakistani workers, virtually all male, 
in the Sultanate, roughly 1,000 Pakistani men attempt to 
enter Oman illegally by sea each month.  Not only are they 
deemed illegal under Omani law, but they violate Pakistani 
law as well, and face criminal penalties when deported back 
to Pakistan at the Omani government's considerable expense. 
 
MUSCAT 00001048  002 OF 003 
 
 
He acknowledged that fear of Pakistani legal consequences may 
dissuade nationals in need of assistance from approaching his 
embassy. 
 
¶6. (SBU) The most common labor problem his embassy faces are 
Pakistanis who either entered Oman illegally, or who entered 
legally but subsequently fell out of status (failing to renew 
work visas, or abandoning a labor contract in favor of other 
work).  Those who are out of status have an exceptionally 
difficult time quitting their jobs and returning to Pakistan, 
since the cost of legalizing their status to obtain an Omani 
exit permit can be beyond their means, particularly when the 
employer withholds salaries to encourage the worker to 
remain.  Ambassador Hafiz said "several thousand" Pakistani 
nationals are currently in this "limbo" status, and the 
Embassy is hoping to negotiate an arrangement with the Omani 
government to facilitate their departure.  The Sri Lankan 
ambassador said he had 70 nationals in such limbo, and 
estimated there were 5,000 Indians in a similar status. 
 
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Pakistani Efforts, Cooperation 
------------------------------ 
 
¶7. (SBU) The Pakistani ambassador had high praise for Oman's 
treatment of illegal migrants.  He denied that his nationals 
were trafficking victims as opposed to economic migrants, and 
moreover said that this was a "Pakistani problem, not an 
Omani problem."  He turned down suggestions from Islamabad to 
assign a police investigator to his embassy to help question 
Pakistani deportation detainees about the human smuggling 
networks and agents employed in getting them to Oman, 
insisting that such work should be carried out in Karachi 
when the detainees are repatriated. 
 
¶8. (SBU) Hafiz noted Pakistani efforts to increase the 
security presence along the Iranian frontier.  Most migrants 
transit that border to meet up with the "mafia" groups that 
then board them on Iranian vessels to Oman and the UAE. 
Pakistani and Omani police forces formed a joint committee in 
February that will convene every six months to monitor 
progress in halting this illegal flow.  He was not aware, 
however, of a similar Pakistani effort with Iran, nor of the 
decree to which Omani nationals might be involved in these 
smuggling rings.  He noted the possibility, since Oman has a 
large ethnic-Baluch population on the Batinah coastline 
(where most of the migrants are deposited) who share family 
links to Baluchis in Pakistan. 
 
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Shelters, Assault Victims 
------------------------- 
 
¶9. (SBU) The Sri Lankan and Philippine ambassadors spoke of 
the shelters their embassies run for laborers in exigent 
circumstances.  On an average day, there are up to 20 
Filipinas and 5-15 Sri Lankans in their respective embassy 
shelters, usually domestics who lack a legal sponsor. 
Ambassador Mahroof complained that the Foreign Ministry has 
ordered his embassy to shut down the shelter, while the 
Philippine ambassador says his shelter operates in a 
bureaucratic "gray" area, but does not draw the MFA's ire as 
long as the embassy immediately reports the identity of every 
new guest.  While both ambassadors agreed the number of rape 
and assault cases against their nationals are in the low 
single digits each year, they criticized lack of prosecution. 
 In fact, Omani medical facilities are not permitted to treat 
a rape or assault victim without a police report first being 
filed.  The ambassadors accused the Royal Oman Police of 
dragging their feet in such cases involving domestics, saying 
the police prefer to deal with the cases as a dispute 
requiring arbitration, rather than as a crime. 
 
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Suggested Omani Actions 
----------------------- 
 
¶10. (SBU) Summarizing their concerns about possible 
trafficking vulnerabilities, the ambassadors agreed that it 
would be useful if Oman ceased issuing border tourist visas 
to those coming to Oman for work.  While Ministry of Manpower 
regulations offer guidelines on labor rules for domestic 
 
MUSCAT 00001048  003 OF 003 
 
 
employees, the ambassadors want those regulations more 
formally codified.  They want the Omani government to give 
formal sanction and recognition to the shelters run by some 
embassies; they do not believe that Omani government-run 
shelters would serve the needs of their citizens.  They also 
ask that medical care be given immediately and 
unconditionally to rape and assault victims, followed by 
genuine police investigation. 
 
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Comment 
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¶11. (SBU) The Ambassador has a standing request to meet with 
the MFA Under Secretary to discuss the 2006 TIP report and 
suggested actions to improve Oman's Tier 2 Watchlist rating. 
The suggestions of the ambassadors above will be folded into 
some of our other ideas for actions Oman might take. 
GRAPPO