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Oman tightens tourist visa rules to curb prostitution

New rules require a round-trip ticket and a booking at a four-star hotel

Gulf News

Muscat: As part of a clampdown on prostitution, Oman will tighten restrictions on granting tourist visas for women from Southeast Asia from this month, Gulf News has learnt.

The decision comes after police found an increase in prostitution activities by these women who entered the country on tourist visas.

The immigration department at the Royal Oman Police (ROP) will now require a round-trip ticket and a booking reservation at a four-star hotel.

The woman will then be granted a 10-day tourist visa. The current tourist visa is for 30 days.

The woman will also have to leave the country for a month if she wants to reapply for another tourist visa.

Hundreds of Southeast Asian women have been arrested for prostitution of late, an official at the ROP told Gulf News on Wednesday.

Photos and videos of these women on streets and in Shisha cafés in the capital Muscat have gone viral on social media, with many users calling on Omani authorities to take action.

A resident who lives on a street where dozens of these women have been seen offering sex told Gulf News that the street has become extremely busy from 9pm until the early hours of the next day.

“I hear them bargaining. It’s unbearable. I cannot sleep sometimes due to the noise and the cars’ honking,” he said.

In September, 21 Thai women who were forced into prostitution were rescued following a raid on a flat in Al Khuwair district of Muscat by Oman and Thai police.

Three Thai nationals who were running the brothel were also arrested.

Thai officials flew into Muscat to free the women in coordination with the Omani police.

The women were reportedly lured by a Facebook group called “Pattaya find job+job application”, promising them masseuse jobs in spas in Muscat, according to Thai media.

The suspects convinced the victims that they would receive 100,000 baht (Dh10,615) per month and offered them free air tickets to Muscat.

The raid came after Thai authorities were tipped off last month by three Thai women who earlier escaped from the sex trade ring in Muscat and returned to Thailand with help from the Thai embassy.

After arriving in Oman, the passports of all victims were seized and their communication cut off.

The women, in their 20s and 30s, were forced into prostitution and made to work long hours in a flat.

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