More than 21,000 expatriate workers violated labour and residence laws in 2016, a new report by the Ministry of Manpower has revealed recently.
The rise in the number of economic migrants arrested in Oman has prompted embassy officials and social workers to renew calls that all foreigners should come to Oman only through proper legal channels.
Bangladeshis make up the majority of the expat population, and are largely blue collar workers who pay agents and middlemen in their home countries, and are incorrectly told they can work anywhere in Oman on a so-called “free visa” - which does not exist under the Omani law.
The Ministry of Manpower report stated that almost three quarters of those in violation of the rules in the Sultanate were Bangladeshi workers, followed by Pakistani and Indian migrants.
In 2015, 19,056 people were arrested, compared to 21,984 in 2016. The number of Bangladeshis arrested in 2015 was 13,172, 69.1 per cent of the total arrests.
In 2016, 16,296 labour violators were Bangladeshis, 2,865 were Pakistani nationals, and 1,706 were Indians.
‘Other’ nationals comprised 4.9 per cent of the workers. Out of the 21,946 arrested in 2016, 11,899 workers were deported. “Legal proceedings are still underway against 10,048 violating workers,” the report revealed.
The report also indicated that 8,642 expatriate workers were arrested in Muscat, of which 5,628 were deported. Muscat was followed by North and South Al Batinah, where 5,275 expats were arrested; Al Dahira (2,261); North and South of Sharqiyah (1,669); Dhofar (1,199); Buraimi (811); and Musandam where 32 were arrested.
The statistics present grim reality for those arriving in the Sultanate without the proper paperwork.
Many migrant workers coming to Oman are forced to pay agents bribes before arriving, and work illegally to recover their losses, according to embassy officials.
Former president of the Bangladesh Social Club Muscat, Mohammed Shafiqul Islam Bhuiyan, noted that a vast majority of Bangladeshis expats might been forced to pay agents and middlemen in Bangladesh to work here.“But after coming here, they realise the situation here is different. Then they start working away from their sponsors. Then they get into trouble,” he added.
One social worker stated: “We want to tell our people that they should not buy a visa and come to work in Oman. They do not need to do this. There are free, legal channels. “We have found many cases where workers are buying visas before coming to work in Oman. They range from OMR1, 200 to OMR1, 500. “We urge everyone to follow the labour laws in Oman, and workers should work with their sponsors, and in places for which they are hired.”
Bangladeshis, currently, make up the largest expatriate community in Oman, with 694,040 Bangladeshi migrants residing here, as of November 2017, down from 701,916 in August 2017, according to the National Centre for Statistics and Information.
“This is one of the reasons so many Bangladeshis were arrested,” Mohammed Bhuiyan said.
According to Oman Labour Law Article 114, a non-Omani employee who works in Oman without a licence from the concerned directorate, or works with any employer other than the employer who obtained a licence to bring him to the Sultanate, shall be punished