The government increased its overall law enforcement efforts, registering higher numbers of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of sex trafficking crimes compared to the previous year. However, it continued to focus disproportionately on sex trafficking versus labor trafficking crimes, and it did not convict any labor traffickers during the reporting period. Oman’s 2008 anti-trafficking law criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed punishments of three to seven years’ imprisonment and a fine between 5,000 and 100,000 Omani rial ($12,990-$259,740) for offenses involving adult victims and seven to 15 years’ imprisonment and a minimum fine of 10,000 Omani rial ($25,970) for offenses involving child victims. These punishments were sufficiently stringent and, with regards to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Ministry of Manpower (MoM) circular No.2/2006 prohibited employers from withholding migrant workers’ passports but did not specify penalties for noncompliance.
In 2018, the government reported investigating 11 alleged human trafficking cases—10 for sex trafficking and one for forced labor—compared to a total of nine human trafficking cases (six potential sex trafficking and three forced labor cases) investigated during the previous reporting period. Authorities charged all suspects in the 11 cases under the anti-trafficking law. It initiated prosecution of five of the 11 cases, an increase from three the prior year; the six remaining cases were pending at the close of the current reporting cycle. The government achieved 15 sex trafficking convictions—up from 12 in 2017—under the anti-trafficking law, seven of which stemmed from outstanding cases stymied in the courts in previous years. Officials sentenced the defendants to imprisonment ranging from three to 10 years and fines from between 500 to 10,000 Omani rial ($1,300 to $25,970). The government planned to deport and impose lifetime Oman reentry bans on all 15 (non-Omani) convicted traffickers upon completion of their sentences. The government reported the public prosecutor’s specialized anti-trafficking unit initiated criminal proceedings of two of these cases during the year. According to labor-sending country diplomats, law enforcement personnel continued to treat forced labor cases as labor law violations rather than criminal offenses, without referring victims to trauma-informed care and investigating only tangible evidence to build trafficking cases. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking. Anecdotal reports alleged police officers sometimes informed Omani sponsors if their runaway domestic workers filed charges of trafficking or related crimes against them.
The government increased efforts to address passport retention compared to the previous reporting year, during which it did not investigate cases as potential trafficking crimes but rather settled all of them via dispute mediation. The MoM reported 120 total passport retention cases in 2018; it investigated 58 as potential trafficking cases, and referred one case to the public prosecutor and 13 cases to the labor court system. The MoM reported that, as of the end of the reporting period, 36 cases remained under investigation, authorities initiated investigations into 22, resolved 30 through mediation, and determined three to be unfounded.
The government did not provide data on its expenditure for trafficking-related trainings in 2018, whereas in the prior year it provided venues, catering, and in-kind support totaling approximately 25,000 Omani rial ($64,940) for such, in addition to auxiliary support of 5,000 Omani rial ($12,990) from the public prosecutor’s office to offset foreign donor contributions. However, in close partnership with an international organization, the government facilitated and provided in-kind and monetary support for anti-trafficking law enforcement training for more than 750 officials from the justice, police, and labor regulatory sectors during the reporting year, a 50 percent increase over the previous year. Representatives from an international organization, NGOs, and foreign governments conducted several trainings on implementation of the anti-trafficking law and victim-centered approaches to law enforcement, reaching 95 relevant government officials. The Royal Oman Police training academy continued to educate all incoming cadets on the legal framework for trafficking and related crimes, victim identification, and mechanisms for transferring potential cases to court, and reached more than 550 new Omani officials.