Around 9,000 illegal expatriate workers, half of them Indians, have applied to leave Oman under an amnesty offer for overstayers, Asian embassies said Monday, June 18.
Abdul Khalique, charge d’affaires at India's embassy, said the mission had issued 4,500 Indians with "emergency certificates," which are submitted to the Omani labor ministry for final clearance to leave the sultanate.
The Bangladeshi embassy said it processed between 3,000 and 3,500 applicants for out-passes under an eight-week amnesty launched on April 21, and Pakistan's embassy another 1,000.
It was unclear how many have already left the country, while the authorities have yet to confirm if the amnesty has run out. Oman Times reported Monday that it could be extended by a month.
"The official figure of those who have actually availed of this facility will be available when the government completes the compilation process," said an official at the ministry of social affairs and labor.
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.
Many of them are without their passports, which are retained by Omani employers, after having run away from their original jobs.
In a similar amnesty in 1998, between 6,000 and 7,000 Indians, mainly construction workers and housemaids, and around 5,000 Bangladeshis left the Gulf Arab state.
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)