By: Kabeer Yousuf
MUSCAT: The Ministry of Manpower has announced a three-month-long general amnesty for undocumented migrants living in the country starting from May 3 till July 30 during which they can avail a one-way travel permit to the country of origin without any fine or punishment.
In yet another major move, the ministry has also removed the conditions prevailed earlier for transfer of jobs and changing jobs is made possible between SMEs, public projects, and among the existing facilities in the same activity.
In this case, the owner of work shall be bound to pay any fee or other fine incurred on account of amending the ministry data.
According to a statement from the ministry, the amnesty aims at correcting the conditions of the private labour market and streamlining non-Omani workforce in the country by exempting the unregistered labour force from paying fines subject to the regulations and procedures stated in the service guide. The employers should register with the Manpower Ministry the names and details of the employees willing to leave the country within one week from today.
The statement further states that the ministry shall not take any responsibility in case the employer did not respond within the deadline for submitting the names of the workers wishing to leave the country permanently, which is one week from the date of the announcement on its website.
Meanwhile thousands of expatriates who have been residing in Oman with no valid documents have registered with their respective embassies and several thousands are crowding diplomatic missions in the sweltering heat to avail of the amnesty.
They include those who decided to stay back even after the expiry of their visas (either visit visa or resident permit), those who lost their passports and resident cards, those who have pawned their documents, and finally those whose visa was not renewed by their companies owing to liquidation or unilateral closure of operations.
The State Council had recently reviewed the report submitted by the panel tasked with studying the legislation regulating expatriate labour and stressed the need to tackle the problem of violations as early as possible before it gets more complicated.
A visit to the embassies of South Asian countries proved that measures and manpower are in place to accommodate those approaching them for ‘one-way travel permit’ and to leave for good.
“We have both our officials and volunteers ready to register those who want to leave the country to avail documents and I personally go to them and verify their claims and expedite their requests”, Sekander Ali, Ambassador of Bangladesh to the Sultanate of Oman, told the Observer.
“We urge all those who are residing in the country with no valid resident permit to make use of the generosity of the authorities and leave the country for good so that they can, in due course of time, come back on valid papers and work here to make a living”, he added.
As many as 500,000 Bangladeshis are living in the country. The embassy is receiving anything around 3,000 undocumented migrants a day.
“We have so far registered something around 8,500 citizens with no valid papers in the country, and are expecting more in the coming days”, A K M Rabiul Islam, Counsellor (Labour Wing) at the Bangladesh Embassy, said.
Pakistan Embassy too has been receiving hundreds of its undocumented migrants to register with the mission.
The registration process is being undertaken at the Pakistan Social Club (PSC) premises in Ruwi, and an average of 80 to 100 Pakistanis are registering at the PSC.
“We have so far registered more than 1,200 Pakistanis who have no papers”, says Naheed Naveed Atif, deputy head of the mission at the Pakistan Embassy.
“We are expecting anything around 3,000 to 4,000 Pakistanis who are residing in Oman without any valid residential documents to benefit from the amnesty”, she added, thanking the Omani authorities for considering a general pardon to illegals, and urging people to make use of this rare opportunity.
There are more than 243,000 Pakistani nationals living in the country.
During the last general amnesty in 2010-11, more than 3,000 undocumented migrants were repatriated, according to her.
The Embassy of India too has started registration of undocumented migrants from India.
They have to submit a form along with the copy of their passport (including visa page) and resident card copy. The applicant has to come in person to submit the form.
The embassy will then gather them in the hall and educate the applicants regarding the processing of their documents.
The Indian Embassy sources revealed that registration is available at other locations apart from the embassy such as Salalah, Buraimi, Musandam and Khasab since it is difficult for migrants staying in interior areas to come to the embassy for registration.
“There could be more than 7,000 Indians this time based on the data and statistics we have and with our interaction with the public who are facing legal issues. In all the previous editions of the facility, we had successfully utilised the opportunity with over a hundred volunteers”, P M Jabir, community welfare secretary, Indian Social Club, Muscat, told the Observer.
Seeing the plight of people standing in long queues in hot sun, some companies have come forward with helping hand and water and other snacks to help them beat the heat.
“We are providing water to those who are standing in the sun waiting for their turn to register with the embassies”, N S S Subrahmanian, Group General Manager of the Oman Oasis water company, told the Observer.
Oman had earlier announced amnesty in 2000, 2005 and 2010-11 and thousands of undocumented migrants had made use of the amnesty.
Every time there is a general pardon, the illegals used to take it lightly and wait till the last but this time, the social workers advised the undocumented expatriate workers to make use of the amnesty in time and avoid further legal complications.
SOURCE: OMAN DAILY OBSERVER