x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Oman amnesty for illegal workers nears deadline

Illegal workers in Oman are queuing to leave the Gulf Arab state or renew expired working papers under a six-month amnesty that ends on March 1.

Illegal workers in Oman are queuing to leave the Gulf Arab state or renew expired working papers under a six-month amnesty that ends in just over a month, foreign diplomats said today. At least 66,000 workers have registered for the amnesty at their embassies, with more expected to do so before a March 1 deadline, diplomats say. The minister of manpower Sheikh Abdalla Al Bakri said in a statement that illegal workers have until March 1 to leave the country or update their papers without risking fines or jail. The workers must register with their embassies to benefit from the amnesty.

"Until now, we have some 17,000 (Indian) people who have registered," the Indian ambassador Anil Wadhwa said. About 23,000 Pakistanis are registered and 26,000 Bangladeshis, officials at those embassies said. Labour experts said many illegal workers probably could not benefit from the amnesty, mostly because they slipped into the country by boat without any identity documents. "The ones registering now either absconded from their employers or their work permits have expired," said Mohammed Al Rabeea, a manpower consultant based in Muscat.

Mr Bakri said there are just over a million legal expatriate workers in Oman registered with the manpower ministry, comprising a third of Oman's total population of three million people. The country held one previous amnesty in 2001. * Reuters