Liberia: Escape from ‘Slavery’ in Oman

 One of the victims, who was mistreated while in Oman, broke down in tears before government officials, IOM representatives, journalists, and the anti-human trafficking task force, at the Labour Ministry conference hall on  April 5, 2022 .

....Liberian girls recount horrific experience in forced labor

The desperate search for ‘greener pastures’, as well as other forms of self-fulfillment abroad has continued to haunt jobless Liberians, particularly young women who are trafficked to countries in the Middle East by unscrupulous agents to work as domestic servants.

The girls and women are later subjected to inhumane treatment, including sexual abuse, etc. 

However, their counterparts who choose to seek employment through the informal and covert process through “agents of opportunities” have suffered some of the worst and most heinous forms of slavery and human abuses that can possibly ever happen to mankind in modern-day.

Over 27 Liberian girls and women, who were recently repatriated from Oman through the intervention of the Liberian government, said they were working as housemaids in different towns of that Middle Eastern country.

At the National Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce meeting held at the Ministerial Complex in Monrovia, they revealed to stakeholders that, while in Oman, they were confined by their employment agents in a private facility for several months, undergoing torment.

The victims, who are mostly women, said they suffered diverse illnesses. Additionally, one of the victims, whose name is withheld, has given an horrific account of how she was taken to a hospital in Muscat and was subjected to a surgical procedure without her consent, even though she wasn’t sick.

Speaking Tuesday, April 5, 2022, at the National Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce Meeting organized by the Ministries of Labor and Justice,  the victim narrated that while in Oman, her employer, who is a lady, took her to a hospital and instructed the doctors to carry on a surgical operation on her, which she strongly rejected.

“It was on November 27 when my boss lady, whom I was working for, took me to a hospital. I told her that I wasn’t sick but she insisted that we needed to go to the hospital. When we reached the hospital she told me that I needed to go under surgery and I responded that I wasn’t sick. But my boss lady told me that he owns me and as such she can do anything she wants with me,” the victim narrated.

She added, “While I was sitting, the nurse gave me juice and I drank it. After that, I couldn’t remember anything else. But when I got up, I saw three marks on my stomach and when I asked her she repeated that she owns me and she can do whatever she wants with me.”

The alleged human trafficking victim further assumed that she suspects something was extracted from her body, taking into consideration the number of operation marks on her lower abdomen.

She also observed that the operation marks on her lower abdomen may have been the extraction of one of her kidneys which she alleged was used to replace the kidney of her boss’s mother-in-law, who she claimed has been suffering from kidney failure and was on regular dialysis. 

She said that she stayed three days at the hospital after the surgical procedure and was later taken back to her boss’s house to resume her regular work.

However, the victim lamented that she could not do the work she previously did prior to being taken to the hospital, on grounds that she was still experiencing severe pain from the surgical procedure, causing her to bleed while mopping floors and performing other laborious tasks.

She also recalled that she experienced tough times during her stay in Oman where she had to cater to seven different families, including cleaning ten bedrooms, seven bathrooms and five living rooms on a daily basis.

The victim stated that upon observing what her boss lady did to her, she called her agent back in Liberia (one Cephus Sedebay) and his response was that he doesn’t have influence over “the people whom I was working with, adding that he is only working with them online.”

A source at the court in Monrovia told the Daily Observer last evening that the agent (Cephus Sedebay) was arrested but was later released on bail. It is unclear whether he is still in the country, following his release from police custody.

When her condition could no longer allow her to perform physical work, she narrated, she felt prompted to strategize an escape plan.

She unveiled that her plan of escaping came to fruition and she left the home of her employers and lived on the streets, where she came in contact with other Liberian girls (also escapees) who were residing in an unfinished building.

According to her, one of her friends served as her personal doctor while in the unfinished building near a swamp in Muscat, and all of her friends helped to provide counseling for her whenever she experienced the severe pains as a result of the surgery she underwent.

Afterwards, the victim indicated that they came across an anti-human trafficking organization headed by Filipinos who administered medication to her before her dispatch from Oman.

She appreciated the Labour Minister, the Liberian Counsel General in Dubai for their respective roles in their return to Liberia.

Another victim also informed the Liberian authorities that while in Oman, she was beaten by her employer, resulting in one of her arms being broken. She therefore calls on the government for justice. 

“We are encouraging the government to go beyond what they have started because most of our Liberian sisters are still going to Oman. Right now, we have received information that one of our sisters has been killed and put into a trash bucket in that country. Please, Honorable Ministers, we want for you to please bring back all our people and provide us with a job or some kind of empowerment because the reason the people treated us that way is that [there was] no job in our country to do,” another victim said.    

Meanwhile, the Liberia Labor Minister, Counselor Charles Gibson. informed the alleged human trafficking victims that the Minister of Health has been instructed to do a proper medical evaluation of the Liberian returnees from Oman, aimed at establishing facts around their conditions.

Cllr. Gibson assured the public that the Government of Liberia will do everything possible to ensure that Liberians in other parts of the world, where they are victims of human trafficking, are rescued and repatriated to Liberia.

He disclosed that the Government of Liberia by the weekend will dispatch two personnel to Oman on a mission to ensure that the rest of the Liberian girls return to their motherland.

Cllr. Gibson said there are more than 70 girls in that Arab Republic but the Government is trying to repatriate those that are in unfavourable conditions, claiming that not all of the Liberians are being mistreated in Oman.

Also, the Minister of Justice, Counsellor Musa Dean asserted that the Government of Liberia will ensure that people involved with human trafficking are prosecuted in line with the laws of Liberia.

He called on the alleged human trafficking victims to work closely with the Ministry of Justice and other requisite entities in ensuring that Liberians don’t get involved with illegal travels.

The Justice Minister also called on the alleged victims to help discourage other Liberians from taking such a treacherous path in life.

“Anytime you hear about anybody leaving this country under any such condition that will suggest what you went through, just let us know,” the Liberian Justice Minister noted.

He announced the Trafficking-In-Persons Hotline “2883” and called on the alleged victims to help eradicate the menace by giving the requisite authority the rightful information.

It can be recalled that the National Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce of Liberia on December 12, 2021, held an emergency meeting on the situation of Liberia women in Dubai and Oman.

The National Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce revealed that the primary objective of the meeting was to consolidate information and respond to what is obtaining in Dubai and about Liberians that have been found in a difficult situation with those that transported them with the hope of getting employment and finding greener pastures.

The move by the National Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce has yielded fruits taking into consideration the recent repatriation of over 27 Liberian girls and women from Oman who arrived at different time intervals in Liberia.