Migrant maids in Oman at risk as India scraps rescue scheme

Updated 21 September 2017

Migrant maids in Oman at risk as India scraps rescue scheme

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India: India’s decision to scrap a financial guarantee scheme for migrant domestic workers in Oman will make it harder for maids who are abused or unpaid to get home, campaigners said on Tuesday.
The Indian embassy in Oman issued a notice on Monday, saying it was scrapping the scheme because employers and recruitment agencies said it was discouraging them from hiring.
The decision comes weeks after a similar waiver in Kuwait and discussions about canceling the scheme in Bahrain as well.
“It seems that the Indian government is going to remove the bank guarantee protection for Indian women domestic workers in all Gulf countries, leaving them less protected,” said Josephine Valarmathi of the National Domestic Workers Movement in India.
Omani government data shows almost 700,000 Indians live and work in the Arab nation, 6 percent of whom are women. Most are men employed as construction workers, gardeners and drivers.
Due to widespread reports of abuse of domestic workers in Gulf nations, India signed an agreement with Oman whereby employers had to provide a bank guarantee certificate of $2,800 to the Indian embassy in the capital, Muscat.
This aimed to protect domestic workers if an employer failed to pay wages, or the maid was physically or sexually abused, and required compensation and financial aid to return home.
It only applied to domestics hired through six recognized state recruitment agencies, excluding women using unofficial channels or conned by fake agents.
India attempted to increase worker protection by setting up E-migrate in 2015, requiring employers in almost 20 countries, mostly in the Middle East, to get online clearance from the government to hire blue-collar workers and maids.
India authorized some 60,000 maids to work in the Gulf in just over two years up to December 2016, according to the ministry of external affairs.
Campaigners called for stronger measures to protect poor women working in Gulf states. “Even after being recruited through official channels, Indian women domestic workers are exploited both physically and mentally,” Rafeek Ravuther, director of the Center for Indian Migrant Studies told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Many return empty-handed.”

US envoy: Fight against Daesh in last Syria stronghold may end soon

Updated 6 min 19 sec ago

US envoy: Fight against Daesh in last Syria stronghold may end soon

  • James Jeffrey: Washington keen to establish constitutional committee by end of the year

WASHINGTON: The administration of US President Donald Trump hopes that the US-backed fight against Daesh in its last foothold in northeastern Syria will end within months but American forces will remain to ensure the “enduring defeat” of the militant group, a top US diplomat said on Wednesday.

Ambassador James Jeffrey, the US special representative for Syrian engagement, said the US believes the way forward in Syria includes defeating Daesh, reinvigorating the political process and winding down the long-running civil war.

Toward that end, he said, the US hopes to see the formation of a committee before the end of the year to work on a new constitution for Syria as agreed by the leaders of Russia, Germany, France and Turkey during their meeting in Istanbul in October.

He said US forces would remain in place after the coalition forces prevail over Daesh military units to ensure the group does not “regenerate itself.”

“The enduring defeat means not simply smashing the last of Daesh’s (Daesh) conventional military units holding terrain, but ensuring that Daesh doesn’t immediately come back in sleeper cells, come back as an insurgent movement,” Jeffrey said.

Washington also wants the withdrawal of Iranian military forces from Syria once the underlying causes of the conflict have been resolved, he said, noting that Iran’s continued military presence would represent a threat to US partners in the region.

Jeffrey said the final ground combat is along the Euphrates River and is being led by Syrian Democratic Forces assisted by US military personnel.

“The fight is continuing and we hope that it will be over in a few months and that will be the last of Daesh’s terrain that it holds in a quasi-conventional way,” he said.

Jeffrey said convening a committee under UN auspices to begin work on a new Syrian constitution was a “critical step” toward advancing the political process. 

He said the US would hold Russia to account to use its influence to bring the regime of its ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, to the negotiating table.

“Our goal, which again was supported by Russia, France, Germany and Turkey and agreed in the Oct. 27 Istanbul communique, is to establish this constitutional committee by the end of the year,” he said.

Jeffrey said getting Iranian forces out of Syria, where they back Assad’s rule, was not a US military goal but should be an outcome of the process to end the civil war and the only way to achieve lasting peace.

He said newly reinstated US sanctions against Iran would encourage Tehran to scale back its presence in Syria.