Nine a day become illegal immigrants in Oman.
Muscat: Nine expat workers run away from their employers every day
on average in Oman, according to statistics from the Ministry of
Manpower. The figures have reignited calls for investigation and debate
on the causes, as the Sultanate offers an immigration amnesty to illegal
expatriates to turn themselves in without penalty. According to the
ministry, the construction sector tops the list of absconders.
Labourers, carpenters, electricians and plumbers in the construction
make up 70 per cent of absconders with salesmen and workers in showrooms
in the retail sector making up the second largest number of absconders.
The domestic workers sector ranks third. "The numbers of expatriate
absconders in the country is rising all the time. It is not getting any
better. I think it is time the government conducts a proper study why it
is happening. We need to document this problem and create a database so
we can learn from it. This is the only way we can solve this problem. We
have to stop assuming that it is the fault of absconders and blame them.
Employers need to take the responsibility as well," Hareb Al Harmi,
an independent manpower expert, told Times of Oman. A Ministry of
Manpower official told Times of Oman that a study has been proposed to
find the reasons for workers fleeing away from employers so that the
ministry can take corrective measures. Labour law While commenting on
the absconding workers issue, an embassy official said that workers
should follow the labour law and avoid landing in trouble by going into
hiding. Rough estimates from four main embassies state that around
50,000 migrant workers are eligible to make use of the amnesty. However,
the numbers of overstaying, absconding and illegal workers who have
registered with the ministry up until last week was only around 3,200.
Rabiul Islam, labour counsellor at Bangladesh embassy in Oman, said,
"When a dispute arises, the worker should approach his embassy, the
Sultanate's labour department and the court to resolve the issues
other than going into hiding." "By taking a decision on their
own and by going into absconding, they will land in more and more
trouble," he said. An Indian social worker expressed the same view.
"Absconding is not at all a solution. The workers will be ruining
their life by going into hiding. Hardships they have to face as an
absconder will be beyond imagination," Shaji Sebastin, a
Muscat-based social worker, said while adding that the low number of
workers seeking amnesty at the embassies is disappointing. However, a
migrant rights activist said the reasons behind why a worker goes into
hiding should also be studied in detail. "Majority of the migrant
worker go into hiding after they land in a hostile situation following a
dispute with the employer. But running away from the employer is not a
solution. The disputes should be resolved legally. The moment they
worker develops a dispute with the employer, they should seek their
embassy help and resolve it," Bheem Reddy, a migrant rights
activist and a legal advisor in India, said. Under the current amnesty,
the government has asked all absconders and illegal workers to come
forward so they can return home without punishment. In 2005, more than
40,000 went home voluntarily and about 60,000 returned in 2007. Labour
inspectors, in collaboration with the police, rounded up more than 4,000
illegal workers last year, 10 per cent more than in 2013. This year so
far, more than 900 have been arrested and deported. The amnesty, which
began on May 3, will continue until July 31. Reporters can be reached at
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