Around 12,000 illegal expatriate workers have left Oman under an amnesty since April for overstayers that is being extended until October, the social affairs and labor minister said Saturday, July 28.
Sheikh Amr Bin Shwain Al-Husni, quoted in the Oman Observer newspaper, said overstayers would now have until October to come forward and leave the sultanate without paying hefty fines.
The daily reported that 15 to 20 new applications were being filed each day at the Indian embassy in Muscat for emergency travel documents under the amnesty scheme, which was originally due to run only two months.
"So far, we have issued more than 5,000 travel documents to Indian amnesty seekers," an embassy official told the paper. "Another 1,000 ... might have directly approached the (Omani) labor department for final clearance. Therefore, at least 6,000 Indian workers must have availed of this opportunity."
Bangladeshis account for 3,200 of the leavers, for whom airlines are offering 20-percent discounts on one-way tickets.
The amnesty allows illegal residents not facing any criminal charge to leave Oman after paying a $125 fine at the labor ministry, rather than the normal penalty of $25 a day for overstayers in Oman.
In a similar amnesty in 1998, between 6,000 and 7,000 Indians, 5,000 Bangladeshis and more than 600 Pakistanis left the Gulf Arab state. Most of the illegal immigrants were employed as construction workers and housemaids.
The latest amnesty comes amid a government campaign to employ Omanis and cut reliance on imported 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 )