Migrant maids in Oman at risk as India scraps rescue scheme

Updated 21 September 2017
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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.”


Syrian Kurdish-led council visits Damascus for new talks

Updated 1 min 1 sec ago
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Syrian Kurdish-led council visits Damascus for new talks

  • A delegation including members of the US-backed SDF held talks with Damascus earlier this month
  • The visits highlight efforts by the Kurdish-led authorities to open new channels to President Bashar Assad’s government

BEIRUT: The political wing of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has been to Damascus for a second round of talks with the state, the pro-government Al-Watan newspaper said on Tuesday.
A delegation including members of the US-backed SDF, which controls roughly a quarter of Syria, held talks with Damascus earlier this month, their first declared visit to the capital.
The visits highlight efforts by the Kurdish-led authorities to open new channels to President Bashar Assad’s government, as they seek to negotiate a political deal that keeps their autonomy within Syria.
The SDF is spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia, which has mostly avoided conflict with Assad and says its aim has been to secure Kurdish rights rather than topple the government.
This has set them apart from rebel factions fighting to topple Assad since 2011, which have now been defeated in much of the territory they once held.
The Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) went for new talks on local administation and decentralization, Al-Watan cited its co-chair Riad Darar as saying on Tuesday.
“All the discussions happening now are ... to find out the other side’s point of view,” he said. The talks “need a lot of reflection to make decisions, and so the matter was left to other meetings.”
Such negotiations could raise new questions for US policy in Syria, where the US military has deployed into SDF territory during the battle against Islamic State.
The SDF seized swathes of land with US help, though Washington opposes their aim of regional autonomy. The region they control spreads across much of northern and eastern Syria, rich in farmland, oil, and water.
Damascus says the US forces are occupiers. For the first time, Assad said in May that he was “opening doors” for talks with the SDF, but also threatened force and said the Americans would leave one way or another.