Omani human traffickers exploiting UAE amnesty
In the latest form of human trafficking to come to light, expatriates in Oman are being smuggled by 'agents' to UAE from where they return to their home countries by taking advantage of an ongoing amnesty scheme announced by the UAE government.
This trend has been exposed by an Indian expatriate who spoke to Muscat Daily about how he embarked on one such journey with some agents in Muscat earlier this year but could return home only after spending two months in a UAE jail.
The expatriate, a supermarket employee who decided to leave Oman after a dispute with his employer, is currently in his home town in the southern Indian state of Kerala.
According to him, these 'agents' are usually approached by absconding employees and illegal immigrants who do not have passports or resident cards to exit Oman.
“I got in touch with the agents, most of whom are based in Al Hail and Ruwi, as I did not possess any travel documents. After a payment of RO300, the agents agreed to take me to UAE and promised me that I would reach my home town within ten days.”
But that, he said, was the beginning of a traumatic ordeal. “From Muscat, I was taken to a secluded villa in Sohar. I spent a few days there while others joined us. One night, 15 of us were taken to a mountainous area in Buraimi by car. Guided by an agent, we were forced to walk through the mountains for around eight hours.”
He said that those in the group not given anything to eat or drink, nor allowed to take a break, during the trip. He claimed to have been told that those who got injured during such journeys were usually left behind.
“Once we set foot on UAE soil, we were caught by the police. The agents had asked us to tell the police, if we were caught, that we had entered Dubai by boat from Iran.
"We were produced in court, which sentenced us to two months in jail for entering the country illegally. It was only then that I realised my mistake. The promised amnesty scheme was yet to be announced and it finally took me more than three months to reach home.”
The expatriate said he then revealed the true story to Indian consulate officials who later visited the jail. The officials then arranged for out-passes for him and the others so they could return to India.
When contacted, an official at the Indian consulate in Dubai would not comment on individual cases but said it had helped deport 12 people who entered the emirate from Oman this year.
“The actual number could be larger, because many illegal immigrants often do not provide details about how they entered the country,” an official in the community welfare department of the consulate said. “We plan to keep a tab on this form of human trafficking.”
An ROP official said border surveillance has been intensified to tackle this menace and urged people not to shelter illegal immigrants.