By Omar Bah
A day after The Standard broke the story of trafficked Gambian women to Oman, the director for Diaspora and Migration at the foreign affairs ministry, Musa Camara, has confirmed that government has started working on the issue of the women through its Embassy in Riyadh to facilitate their repatriation.
The women were trafficked with the promise of well-paid jobs only to be told on arrival that they have been sold as slaves to some Arabs, who subject them to inhumane treatment.
They have appealed to the Gambia Government to facilitate their immediate repatriation.
According to director Camara, the women in Oman are aware of the efforts underway to get them back.
This operation is done by agents in Oman, some of them Arabs and some Africans including Gambians here. “So these girls normally go willingly by themselves without us knowing until when they have issues, when they will contact us. It is recently when they started having issues that they contacted someone who came to my office to tell me about their issues. I started communicating with them and later, I communicated with IOM to see how best we can repatriate them but we realised they signed a contract with companies over there who send them to various houses where they work. So what they said is that they work 24 hours without rest and they don’t have proper feeding and some claim they are sexually abused,” he said.
Mr Camara said the government felt there “is urgent need to help them. But we realised that their cost of tickets, visas and everything was done by the compound that recruited them which is D150, 000 to D175, 000 for some of them and they cannot come without paying back these monies as part of requirement for the contracts they signed. Now when we contacted IOM, they were willing to help repatriate them but because of that contract, they cannot get involved.
“Now we are engaging our Embassy in Riyadh and ten days before Eid, they wrote to the Oman Embassy in Riyadh to have a meeting with them to discuss the plight of the girls but Saudi were on five days break before Eid. So the meeting could not be held. But I contacted them last Monday and they said they are supposed to have the meeting with the Oman Embassy. So the expectation is that the Oman government will pay those companies the monies they spent on these girls so that they can be free. We can finally repatriate them,” he said.
Arrest of agents
Camara said one of the agents was arrested through the immigration intelligence as he tried to smuggle another group of girls last Sunday. “This new batch of girls was intercepted and their passports seized and NAATIP is currently investigating the matter,” Camara said.