There has been a concerted civil society campaign urging authorities in Oman to assist migrant labourers, who form a critical backbone to the economy of Oman as in other Gulf countries. In Gulf countries, workers must be sponsored by an employer to enter the country, under the kafala systems. The employer has then the authority to renew residence permits, which not only makes migrant workers dependent on their employers for their legal status, but also makes them fear deportation.
On 10 April, a coalition of 16 NGO’s called the authorities to ensure that migrant workers receive adequate protection during the Covid-19 pandemic. Previously, in early April, HRW released a statement arguing that in light of the pandemic, people in immigration detention in Gulf countries pending deportation should be given “alternatives to detention.” On 30 April, Amnesty International raised concerns about “the impact of the pandemic on protection of migrant workers in the Gulf, where common issues like overcrowded accommodation now present a public health risk.’’
According to Migrant-Rights.org, ‘’The Omani government provides free testing and treatment to all residents, including those without insurance. However, treatment for nationals and migrants differs; according to sources, while nationals who test positive for Covid19 are immediately brought into isolation, workers are told to quarantine at home until or unless their conditions worsen.’’
In mid-April, the government called on private firms to ask non-Omani employees “to leave permanently’’, and later advocated for the replacement of foreign workers in government sectors by nationals. Omani Health Minister Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al-Saidi reportedly stated in a radio interview, earlier in April, that “our biggest challenge is among expatriate workers.’’
On 5 May 2020, the number of confirmed cases was at 2,735. Out of the 98 new cases in the last 24 hours, 56 affected non-Omanis.
- Human Rights Watch, ‘’COVID-19: A Human Rights Checklist’’, 14 April 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/04/14/covid-19-human-rights-checklist
- Human Rights Watch, ‘’Gulf States: Ease Immigration Detention in Pandemic’’, 7 April 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/04/07/gulf-states-ease-immigration-detention-pandemic
- Human Rights Watch, ‘’Oman: Protect Migrant Workers During Pandemic’’, 17 April 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/04/17/oman-protect-migrant-workers-during-pandemic
- Amnesty International, ‘’COVID-19 Makes Gulf Countries’ Abuse Of Migrant Workers Impossible To Ignore’’, 30 April 2020, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2020/04/covid19-makes-gulf-countries-abuse-of-migrant-workers-impossible-to-ignore/
- Migrant-Rights, ‘’Community Groups Struggle To Meet Rising Needs Among Oman’s Migrant Workers’’, 2 May 2020, https://www.migrant-rights.org/2020/05/oman-covid19/
- S. Roy, ‘’Covid Effect: Oman Says Its Own Will Replace Expats In Govt Sectors’’, The Indian Express, 1 May 2020, https://indianexpress.com/article/india/6387963covid-effect-oman-says-its-own-will-replace-expats-in-govt-sectors/