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Government in Oman nightmare

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By Patience Lunda & Feston Malekezo:

Months after some Malawian women claimed that about 300 of them are stuck in Oman and asked the Malawi Government to repatriate them as they are trapped in inhumane conditions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said it is facing challenges to trace the women.

It further indicates that Malawi has no bilateral ties with the middle-eastern country, hence processing of travelling documents is proving to be a problem.

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This means Malawians stuck there will have to wait a little longer as the government formalises ties to facilitate their repatriation.

Reports indicate that the closest authorities that can assist the women are based at the Malawi Embassy in Kuwait, but approval for their entry into Oman has not been easy.

The distance from Kuwait to Oman is 1,211 kilometres (km) while the distance from Malawi to Oman is 4,514km.

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According to Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson John Kabaghe, tracing the women is proving difficult because many of them used unregistered recruitment agencies and landed themselves in bad working conditions.

He said the development has prompted the government to deploy a delegation of officers that will go to Oman to request that they sign a formal bilateral agreement and then ask the Oman officials to help Malawi rescue the affected Malawians.

Kabaghe then urged Malawians to furnish the ministry with information of relatives who are stranded in Oman so that they can easily be traced.

“We want to engage the Oman government on how to address allegations of labour abuse and to have a formal bilateral agreement. We want to do this.

“However, most of them used unregistered recruitment agencies which has made it hard for us to know how many are suffering but the government will do everything it can to help them,” Kabaghe said.

Meanwhile, the ministry has disclosed that they are receiving support from the International Organisation for Migration to fast-track processes of identifying the victims and repatriating them to the country.

A statement which the Malawi Human Rights Commission released Wednesday, signed by chairperson Scader Louis, calls upon the government to ensure that victims of human trafficking stuck in foreign countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Oman are brought home safely.

The statement has further asked the government to “investigate and prosecute agents” facilitating human trafficking as they seem to have been left unchecked for a long time.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, most of the Malawians are being ill-treated at their workplaces as they are not allowed to rest while others work overtime without being paid.

Meanwhile, labour relations commentator Shakespeare Sesani has cited high levels of employment as one of the factors contributing to the movement of Malawians to countries where their labour rights are abused.

“There are a lot of people who are trapped in unemployment in Malawi; as such, all they want is to secure a job. The second thing is low pay. People are looking for greener pastures but, sadly, they cannot find them here in Malawi. The alternative is going outside the country.

“However, we need more awareness on scams that are happening. Most of the people who are falling prey to such scams are the graduates. We need to intensify sensitisation campaigns to address the problem,” he said.

Recently, Labour Minister Vera Kamtukule said some of the women trapped in Oman travelled illegally.

She, however, expressed hope that, through meetings that Malawi’s officials have initiated on the matter, a lasting solution to the problem will be found.

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