More than 13,000 illegal expatriate workers have left Oman under an amnesty since April for overstayers that has been extended until October, Asian embassy sources said Sunday, August 26.
The Indian embassy said it had so far issued 5,500 emergency travel documents, while a further 1,000 illegal Indian immigrants were waiting clearance through the sultanate's labor department. "The rush is over now. But we are still issuing five to six travel documents every day", an embassy official said.
A Bangladeshi embassy official said there had been 3,300 Bangladeshi leavers, for whom airlines are offering 20-percent discounts on one-way tickets. "Now, only two or three people are coming every day for travel documents," he said, adding the embassy expected a surge of people before the amnesty's October deadline.
The Pakistani embassy had issued 1,700 emergency certificates to its nationals, while 220 Sri Lankans had taken advantage of the scheme. "We have used this facility to send back 150 female garment factory workers, whose visas and labor cards were not renewed by their employers," a Sri Lankan official said.
The amnesty allows illegal residents not facing any criminal charge to leave Oman after paying a $65 fine at the labor ministry, rather than the normal penalty of around $26 a day for overstayers.
Many of them are without their passports, which are retained by Omani employers, after having run away from their original jobs. The latest amnesty comes amid a government campaign to employ Omanis and cut reliance on expatriate labor. A target date of 2003 has been set to have all government posts filled by Omanis.
According to official figures, a quarter of the sultanate's population of two million are foreigners. ― (AFP, Muscat)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )