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.”

Iran scrambles for European lifeline

A special meeting of the Joint Commission of parties to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) on Iran’s nuclear deal is in progress in Vienna. (Reuters)
Updated 26 May 2018

Iran scrambles for European lifeline

  • ‘Noose is tightening on Tehran’ in face of US sanctions, expert tells Arab News
  • US President Donald Trump has long criticized the deal with Iran saying it failed to do enough to curtail Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

JEDDAH: Signatories of the Iran nuclear deal met in Vienna on Friday in a bid to save the agreement after Washington’s dramatic withdrawal earlier this month.

For the first time since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) came into force in 2015, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany gathered — at Iran’s request — without the US, which pulled out of the agreement on May 8 and said it would reinstate sanctions.

US President Donald Trump has long criticized the deal with Iran — concluded under his predecessor Barack Obama — saying it failed to do enough to curtail Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Speaking to AFP after Friday’s meeting, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Abbas Araghchi, said: “We are negotiating... to see if they can provide us with a package that can give Iran the benefits of sanctions lifting.” 

“Practical solutions” were required to address Iran’s concerns over its oil exports, banking flows and foreign investment in the country, he said.

Russian delegate Mikhail Ulyanov struck an upbeat note after the meeting, saying: “We have all the chances to succeed, provided we have the political will.

Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Majid Rafizadeh told Arab News that it would be against Europe’s interests to stay in the deal.

“The European nations should be cognizant of the fact that the beneficiary of the nuclear deal is Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and its militias,” he said. “Staying in the deal or submitting to the Iranian regime’s new demands will inflict damage on the EU’s geopolitical and national security interest in the short and long term.”

The EU could not thwart or skirt US primary and secondary sanctions against Iran, he said. Rafizadeh said Iran’s hard-liners were attempting to obtain concessions from the EU by threatening to pull out of the JCPOA.

“But from the perspective of the Iranian leaders, giving concessions means weakness. And although Iran is playing tough, it needs the deal to support Bashar Assad and its proxies.

“The European governments should be aware that the Iranian leaders — moderates and hard-liners — are playing a shrewd tactical game.

“The regime is playing a classic ‘good cop, bad cop’ game. The moderates set the tone on the international stage through their shrewd diplomatic skills and softer tone, while the hard-liners take a tougher stance to help the moderates win more concessions,” said Rafizadeh.

Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, said the noose was tightening on Tehran.

“European firms simply cannot afford the penalties imposed by US secondary sanctions on Iran. The Iranian plan to press Europe to compensate for President Trump’s policy decision to restart a crippling sanctions regime is unlikely to prove fruitful,” he told Arab News.

Recent revelations of a covert Iranian facility designed to develop long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles that can be fitted with nuclear warheads will only complicate matters for Tehran as it scrambles for a European lifeline, Shahbandar said.

“The collapse of the JCPOA is likely to prove a major shock to the Iranian economy in the long run,” he said.