15,879 construction workers among 45,715 apply to avail the scheme
With only a few days left for the exit facility deadline, 45,715 applications from expatriates of different nationalities have so far been received at the Ministry of Labour. Of those, 3,875 workers have departed so far.
“The response has been overwhelming since the announcement of the decision to allow a fine-free return of the undocumented workers in the Sultanate,” said a senior official at the ministry, adding that the total number of the request may exceed the 50,000 mark.
According to data from the ministry, the majority of the workers who applied to avail the facility are from the construction sector with 15,879 applications.
This is followed by 6,891 applicants from the industry sector and 2,900 from the automobile sector.
“The decision to facilitate the exit of the expatriate workers follows the government’s keenness to regularise the labour market aimed at bringing comprehensive development and the national priorities in accordance with Oman Vision 2040,” said the official.
The exit scheme, announced by the Ministry of Labour in November last, helps expatriate workers who are residing in the country without proper documentation including work permits to leave Oman for good without paying fees and fines.
The registration can be done at the Ministry of Labour’s website till December 31. The largest number of people who applied to exit the country under the scheme are from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, whose expats form the largest overseas communities in the Sultanate.
Social workers from the respective countries are helping the embassies to help expedite the return of the workers.
Speaking to the Observer, an official at the Indian Embassy said that the number of Indians this time, unlike in the previous occasion, is less as a number of them have already left the country in the recent months.
“Many of them left the country during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic after paying the fines and utilising the flight facilities offered by the Indian government and social organisations,” said the official.
Mansoor Ahmed, an Indian national, while thanking the Oman Labour Ministry for the initiative, said, he did not expect he could go back to his country without paying the fines.
“I have been staying in the country without proper documents for the last three years. Papers are ready and I will fly back next week,” he said.
The Pakistan Embassy has even sent its officials to townships in Oman’s interiors to help its nationals avail the facility.
“The embassy is open to help our nationals by extending all possible assistance for the return to their hometowns. The Pakistani social workers are helping them fill the forms and other necessary work,” said an official.
Meanwhile, the Bangladeshi Embassy was buzzing with a large number of people unlike other embassies. Many of them arrive at the embassy even at the wee hours.
“When I came at 4 am, I found many people already taking their positions to form the queue. We have to ready all the papers before the expiry of the scheme,” said Sainuddin, a construction worker who has been without a work permit for the last six years.
Sainuddin is one among hundreds of workers who were found to have been living in the country illegally following non-renewal of their work permits either due to their absconding from the employers or the dereliction of the sponsors.