Connect with us

Global Affairs

Alone in Oman: Covid worsens abuse for trafficked women | Oman

Voice Of EU

Published

on

Isha knew she was in trouble when her passport was snatched from her hands. The 27-year-old from Sierra Leone had just arrived in the Omani capital, Muscat, believing she was to start a well-paid job at a restaurant. Instead, her recruitment agent bundled her into a car and drove her to a house where she was told she would be working as a live-in maid.

“My agent told me he could take my passport because he had bought me,” she says. “I was confused. How can you buy a human being?”

At 5am, a few hours after she arrived, she was woken by her new employer who ordered her to clean the house and then get his children ready for school. “This is not the work I came to Oman for,” she says. “My agent in Sierra Leone lied to me.”

The kafala system of employment still ties migrant workers to the employer who brings them to the Gulf, allowing widespread exploitation to persist, despite years of campaigning by human rights groups.

Now rights groups are warning that the Covid pandemic has made conditions even more difficult for migrant domestic workers in Oman who come from poorer countries such as Sierra Leone. Trapped in private homes during lockdown, many have faced a great risk of violence, are being made to work longer hours and are earning less as the economic dip hits their employers.

Such pressures have led to women running away from their employers, but their lack of rights puts them in a nightmarish situation. One group working to support domestic workers has warned that 200 Sierra Leonean women are stranded and homeless in Oman. Many were trafficked there, tricked like Isha into thinking that a better life was waiting for them.

Sierra Leone has been a trafficking hotspot since the aftermath of its civil war in 2005, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Trafficking is further driven by poverty, exacerbated by the 2014 Ebola outbreak.

“There are all sorts of different tricks that are pulled on them; they are told they would have their pick of jobs, or that they are coming to get an education,” says Sari Heidenreich, at Project 189, an organisation based in Germany that promotes the rights of migrant workers in the Middle East. “Very few of them are told they will be working in [private] homes.”

Sierra Leone is increasingly a leading source of trafficking to Oman, according to the IOM.

“The majority of calls I receive from women needing assistance in Oman are from Sierra Leone. There are a lot of traffickers in Sierra Leone,” says Dana Al-Othman, external relations and projects assistant at the IOM in Kuwait. “The women want to earn money to take care of their families, and they’re presented [by local recruiters] with what they think is a golden opportunity.”

Much of the trafficking to Oman comes via neighbouring United Arab Emirates, according to Human Rights Watch.

Migrants from west Africa on board a rescue vessel in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya. Sierra Leone became a hotspot for trafficking after the civil war and the Ebola outbreak.
Migrants from west Africa rescued in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya. Sierra Leone has become a hotspot for trafficking. Photograph: Ricardo Garcia Vilanova/AFP/Getty

Some victims are highly educated and are told they have been recruited for professional jobs.

Dija, 24, a new graduate with a degree in nursing, believed she had a job waiting for her at a hospital in Europe. She had decided to travel abroad for work to support her family, including her young daughter, after losing her partner to Ebola in 2015.

Instead, she is trapped in a house in Salalah, near the Yemeni border. Her recruiters sent her on a journey from her home in Freetown, overland to Guinea, then on flights to Addis Ababa and Muscat. She had no idea she was going to Oman.

“My agent said I would have my own apartment, and earn $500 [£360] a month,’ she says. “When I boarded the flight, I still thought I was going to Europe. I did not think I was coming here. This place is just like hell for me.”

Isha is among those now stuck in Oman. “My employers took my phone; they beat me up,” she says. “There was no time to rest, and they would not give me food unless they felt like it.”

After she had not received her $180 monthly salary for three consecutive months, she ran away.

Sierra Leone has no embassy in Oman so Isha had nowhere to turn and her employer eventually tracked her down. He said he’d let her leave him if she repaid the $1,560 fee he had given the recruitment agent. Since she had no money, he decided to sell her on.

“He said there is another man that wants me to go to work; I was told to go with him and take my bag,” says Isha. “I didn’t know what to do. I really want to find a way to go back to my family.”

Source link

Global Affairs

Missing child in Germany: German boy found alive after surviving eight days in sewer | International

Voice Of EU

Published

on

German police have found an eight-year-old boy who went missing from his home in Oldenburg, a city of 170,000 people in northwestern Germany. The child, named Joe, was discovered on Saturday in a sewer just 300 meters from his house. He had survived in the sewer for eight days while hundreds of officers and volunteers frantically searched the surface for clues to his whereabouts. “Eight-year-old Joe lives!” police in Oldenburg announced on Twitter.

The boy, who suffers from learning disabilities, disappeared on June 17 from the garden of his house. Police launched a large-scale search with drones, helicopters, sniffer dogs and dozens of officers, who were joined by hundreds of volunteers. As the days passed, a homicide team joined the investigation amid growing fears that Joe – who is only identified by his first name due to Germany’s privacy laws – could have been the victim of a violent crime. A witness claimed to have seen him in the company of an unidentified man and it was feared he may have been kidnapped.

“It was absolute luck,” said Stephan Klatte, the Oldenburg police spokesman, said of Joe’s discovery. A neighbor who was walking in the area raised the alarm when he heard “a whining noise” coming from the ground, just under a drain. When officers lifted the manhole cover, they found the boy, completely naked. He had no serious external injuries, but was dehydrated and suffering from hypothermia, for which he was taken to hospital for treatment. According to German media, he is recovering well. “If he hadn’t made a sound, or if no one had heard him, we might never have found him,” Klatte said.

In a statement, the police reported that they believed that Joe likely entered the rainwater drainage system through a sewer on the same day of his disappearance and “lost his bearings after walking several meters.” Police have ruled out any foul play in the incident.

On Sunday, the day after Joe was discovered, police commissioned a specialized company to inspect the sewage system with a robot equipped with a camera. The robot examined the sewer between the boy’s home and the place where he was found. It recorded several items of clothing, including what he was wearing when he disappeared, in a pipe about 60 centimeters in diameter that runs under one of the streets of the neighborhood where he lives with his parents. The robot found, for example, the child’s vest, 70 meters from the point of entry.

Officers found an entrance to a three-foot-wide drainage channel near the farm where he was last seen on the day of his disappearance. Authorities believe the boy entered the channel while playing. After 23 meters, the tunnel leads to another narrower plastic pipe and police think it is likely the eight-year-old continued down this path. Joe was eventually found about 290 meters from where he entered the sewer system.

Police believe that Joe became more and more disoriented until he could no longer find a way out. “A first statement from the child confirms this assumption,” said the statement, which does not provide more details about what he told officers. Investigators say they have not been able to question the boy in detail, as he remains in hospital. Nothing has been found to suggest that the child came to the surface in the eight days in which he was missing. In the statement, police asked that no questions about his state of health be made out of respect for him and his family.



Source link

Continue Reading

Global Affairs

Bereaved then evicted by in-laws: Kenya’s widows fight disinheritance | Global development

Voice Of EU

Published

on

Within months of the death of her husband in 2014, Doreen Kajuju Kimathi, from Meru, eastern Kenya, was told that his bank accounts had been frozen, and she had been forced out of her home by her in-laws.

The pregnant 37-year-old was left with no resources to fight back, and returned to her parents’ home. “It was traumatising, and I went into depression for five years,” says Kimathi.

Doreen Kajuju Kimathi
Doreen Kajuju Kimathi, who now volunteers for a widows’ support group. Photograph: Courtesy of Widows Empowerment Initiative for Africa

Her experience is far from unique. While Kenya protects widows’ inheritance in theory, the patriarchal culture and the influence of colonial legislation that restricted married women’s property rights means the law is often not enforced.

“There is an entire parallel system operating outside succession laws,” says Roseline Njogu, a Kenyan lawyer. “Years of law reform have led us to formal equality, but equality of law doesn’t mean equality of power, and that’s where we get tripped up.”

Human rights groups report that discriminatory practices in marriage limit women’s capacity to own land. According to the Kenya Land Alliance, only 1% of land titles are registered to women, and another 6% are registered jointly with a man.

While children have equal inheritance rights, land is more often passed on to sons, leaving daughters with fewer assets, and making a future wife vulnerable to eviction if her spouse’s family regard the property as theirs.

For young widows such as Kimathi, it can be even harder to hold on to marital property. “You’re considered less entitled to it because you’re expected to remarry,” she says.

But a fightback is under way. Grassroots organisations are emerging all around the country to build community awareness of women’s legal rights. One group, the Come Together Widows and Orphans Organization (CTWOO), has offered legal advice and support to nearly 500,000 widows since 2013.

The NGO is trying to address disinheritance at its roots. It works with other groups to increase financial and legal literacy across the country, especially among married couples, encouraging them to discuss finances openly, and to write wills.

Dianah Kamande, the founder of the Come Together Widows and Orphans Organization.
Dianah Kamande, the founder of the Come Together Widows and Orphans Organization. Photograph: Courtesy of CTWOO

The founder, Dianah Kamande, says that – contrary to popular belief – most dispossessed widows are middle-class, like Kimathi, not poor. The poor usually have less property, and the rich have access to lawyers.

Kamande says death and estate planning are still taboo topics for many married couples, and that some people obscure their wealth. “Men keep lots of secrets about money from their wives, and trust their mothers and siblings more – who in turn disinherit the wife and children,” she says.

Widows Empowerment Initiative for Africa logo
Grassroots groups are emerging to build awareness of widows’ rights. Photograph: Courtesy of Widows Empowerment Initiative for Africa

The country’s Unclaimed Financial Assets Authority says it has 50bn Kenyan shillings (£347m) in unclaimed assets, and about 40% is money left by people after they die. Concerned by the rising number of unclaimed assets, research by the authority found roughly 43% of Kenyan respondents said they would not disclose their financial assets to anyone – even people they trusted.

“There’s secrecy around financial investments. For many of the people who find out about the assets left by their spouse, it’s a eureka moment,” says Paul Muya, of the UFAA.

Five years after being widowed, Kimathi’s life was still on hold. She had looked into hiring a lawyer but could not afford it. Without access to the family property, it was difficult for her and her son to get by, and she had to rely on help from her parents and sister.

But through the CTWOO, she found out that she did not need a lawyer to access the courts. She filed a claim, and within a year had gained access to almost all of her dead husband’s property. Last year, Kimathi opened a bar and restaurant in Kitui, 110 miles east of Nairobi.

“It was a huge relief to get the money. Being a widow in Kenya is financially and socially isolating, and knowing what that’s like pushed me to help others in the same situation,” says Kimathi, who now volunteers with a widows’ support group.

Sign up for Her Stage to hear directly from incredible women in the developing world on the issues that matter to them, delivered to your inbox monthly:

Sign up for Her Stage – please check your spam folder for the confirmation email

Source link

Continue Reading

Global Affairs

WHO concerned about first cases of monkeypox in children | Science & Tech

Voice Of EU

Published

on

Reports of young children infected by monkeypox in Europe – there were at least four in recent days, with a fifth one recorded a few weeks ago – have raised concern about the progress of an outbreak now affecting more than 5,500 people in 51 countries.

The health organization’s Europe chief, Hans Kluge, also warned on Friday that overall cases in the region have tripled in the last two weeks. “Urgent and coordinated action is imperative if we are to turn a corner in the race to reverse the ongoing spread of this disease,” said Kluge.

The WHO has not yet declared the outbreak a global health emergency, however. At a meeting last Saturday, the agency ruled it out but said it could change its views if certain scenarios come to pass, such as a spike in cases among vulnerable groups like children, pregnant women and immunocompromised people. Available data shows that children, especially younger ones, are at higher risk of serious illness if they become infected.

The last known case of a child contracting monkeypox was reported on Tuesday in Spain, where a three-year-old was confirmed to have the disease. Cases in Spain are now in excess of 1,500 according to health reports filed by regional governments.

Also on Tuesday, Dutch authorities reported that a primary school student had become infected and that contact tracing had been initiated to rule out more cases within the child’s close circle of contacts. On Saturday, France reported one confirmed case and one suspected case among elementary school students.

The UK has so far recorded at least two infections in minors. The first case, reported in May, involved a baby who had to be taken to intensive care for treatment with the antiviral Tecovirimat, of which few doses are available but which has already begun to be distributed in several countries. British authorities this week reported a second case of a child with monkeypox. The UK currently has the biggest monkeypox outbreak beyond Africa.

The main vaccine being used against monkeypox was originally developed for smallpox. The European Medicines Agency said earlier this week it was beginning to evaluate whether the shot should be authorized for monkeypox. The WHO has said supplies of the vaccine, made by Bavarian Nordic, are extremely limited.

Until May, monkeypox had never been known to cause large outbreaks beyond Africa, where the disease is endemic in several countries and mostly causes limited outbreaks when it jumps to people from infected wild animals.

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates 
directly on your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!