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.”


Israeli court bars ‘racist’ candidates from September poll

Updated 2 min 41 sec ago

Israeli court bars ‘racist’ candidates from September poll

JERUSALEM: Israel’s Supreme Court has barred two members of an extreme-right party many view as racist from running in a September 17 general election.
The court ruled that candidates Benzi Gopstein and Baruch Marzel, of the Jewish Power party could not stand, quoting a law barring “incitement to racism” by candidates, according to a court statement late Sunday.
Jewish Power members are followers of late racist rabbi Meir Kahane, whose Kach movement wanted to chase Arabs from Israel.
The ideology of Kahane, assassinated in New York in 1990, also inspired Baruch Goldstein, who carried out a massacre of 29 Palestinian worshippers in Hebron in 1994.
The court rejected petitions to ban the Jewish Power as a party and upheld the candidacy of West Bank settler Itamar Ben-Gvir, who heads its electoral list.
Ben-Gvir acknowledges having a picture of Goldstein in his living room, but has reportedly said it is because he was a physician who rescued Jews targeted in Palestinian attacks.
Indicted 53 times since his youth, Ben-Gvir boasts of having been cleared in 46 cases. He decided to study law on the recommendation of judges so he could defend himself.
He now represents settlers accused of violence, including those allegedly responsible for an arson attack that killed an 18-month-old Palestinian boy and his parents in 2015 in the West Bank, an incident that drew widespread revulsion.
Jewish Power advocates removing “Israel’s enemies from our land,” a reference to Palestinians and Arab Israelis who carry out attacks.
It also calls for Israel annexing the occupied West Bank, where more than 2.5 million Palestinians live.
Alone it was considered unlikely to garner the 3.25 percent of votes cast necessary to get into parliament.
But a deal mentored by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saw it entering an electoral alliance with two other far-right parties, improving its chances.
The pact drew disgust from many in Israel and among Jewish communities abroad, particularly in the United States.
For Netanyahu, the deal ahead of what is expected to be a close election was pure politics.
He defended it by saying he does not want any right-wing votes to go to waste as he plans his next coalition.