The Global Slavery Index has estimated that there are almost 3 million people living in conditions of modern slavery in the region of the Middle East and North Africa. Oman is a transit and destination country for men and women primarily from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines, most of whom migrate willingly as domestic servants or low-skilled workers in the country’s construction, agriculture and service sectors. Trafficked persons subsequently experience conditions of modern slavery such as the confiscation of passports, restrictions on movement, non-payment of wages, long working hours without rest and physical or sexual abuse.
Asma was living in Bangladesh when she paid 300 OMR to an agent in Bangladesh to connect her to a job in the UAE. Upon arrival, her passport was confiscated, and she was forced to work 21 hours a day with no rest or days off. Asma was deprived of food, did not get paid and was subjected to verbal and sexual harassment.
I was sold to a man in Oman.
I would start working at 4:30 a.m. and finish at 1 a.m. For the entire day they wouldn’t let me sit. I used to be exhausted. There were 20 rooms and over 2 floors. He wouldn’t give me food. When I said I want to leave, he said, “I bought you for 1,560 rials (US$4,052) from Dubai. Give it back to me and then you can go.
I begged their mother, ‘Your sons won’t leave me alone at night. Please let me go home’.
[Her employer’s wife sent Asma back to the agent who beat her and sent her to work for another employer where she faced the same conditions. She later fled her new employer and came across a Bangladeshi worker who took pity on her and gave her some cash]
I left the house and walked for hours. I was exhausted. I took four taxis to go to the embassy. It cost me 30 rials ($78).
As told to researchers for Human Rights Watch