Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons
The law provides for freedom of movement within the country and repatriation and the government generally respected these rights. Citizens could generally travel freely outside the country, although that right is not codified. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) occasionally visited the country but did not maintain an office or personnel in the country.
Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: During the year Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report, based primarily on interviews with 59 female domestic workers, claiming widespread abuse and exploitation of migrant domestic works in the country. The country has a large number of female migrant workers from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, and in the report many of these workers described abuses that amounted to forced labor or trafficking. According to HRW, “female migrant domestic workers faced multiple forms of discrimination and arbitrary government policies: as domestic workers, they are excluded from equal labor law protections guaranteed to other workers; as women, regulations provide that they can be paid less than male domestic workers; and as migrants, their salaries are based on their national origin rather than their skills and experience.”
According to the report, the country criminalizes slavery and trafficking, but enforcement is weak. Although forced labor is punished under the country’s labor law, domestic workers are excluded from that law’s protections. Authorities prosecuted a few individuals for forced labor, but it was unclear whether any of those cases involved domestic workers.
There was a high number of reports of women trafficked into forced labor from the neighboring UAE, but there were only five sex trafficking prosecutions in 2015, and none reported on forced labor. Approximately one-quarter of the domestic workers HRW interviewed said that their employers physically or sexually abused them by shouting, threatening to kill them, or calling them insulting names.
In-country Movement: There are no official government restrictions on internal travel for any citizen. The government must approve official travel by foreign diplomats to the Dhofar and Musandam regions. There were reports of many migrant domestic workers having their passports confiscated by employers, who sponsor the foreign workers.
Employers have an inordinate amount of control over these workers, according to HRW. Migrant workers cannot work for a new employer without the permission of their current employer, even if they complete their contract and the current employer is abusive. Employers can have a worker’s visa canceled arbitrarily. Workers who leave their jobs without the consent of their employer can be punished with fines, deportation, reentry bans, or forcible return to the abusive employer.
Foreign Travel: Some foreigners must obtain an exit visa from their employer prior to leaving the country. Exit visas may be denied when there is a dispute over payment or work remaining, leaving the foreign citizen in country with recourse only through local courts. Courts provided recourse to workers denied exit visas, but the process was opaque. In a few cases, travel bans–through confiscation of passports–were imposed on citizens involved in political activism.
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
Access to Asylum: The laws provide for the granting of asylum or refuge for internally displaced persons, and the government has established a system for providing protection. The ROP reportedly granted asylum and accepted displaced persons for resettlement during the year. The ROP’s system for granting asylum and resettlement is not transparent, and the law does not specify a timeframe in which the ROP must adjudicate an asylum application.
Refoulement: The government generally did not provide protection to refugees from repatriation to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened. Tight control over the entry of foreigners effectively limited access to protection for refugees and asylum seekers. Authorities apprehended and deported hundreds of presumed economic migrants from Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea who sought to enter the country illegally by land and sea from the south. Afghans and Pakistanis generally came to the country by boat via Iran. Authorities generally detained these persons in centers in Salalah or the northern port city of Sohar, where they were held an average of one month before deportation to their countries of origin.
Access to Basic Services: Without an official sponsor, it was difficult for economic migrants to have access to basic services, such as health care. Many applied to their embassies for repatriation. Some asylum seekers developed strong relationships within their community that informally provided for them while they sought new employment.