Oman to restrict visas for Bangladeshi workers

Author: Sophie-Marie Odum | Date: 5 Oct 2016

The country wants to combat a rising unskilled workforce

Oman is limiting the number of visas made available for workers from Bangladesh, in an attempt to reduce the large number of unskilled workers entering the country.
 
There was a 2 per cent increase in the number of “illiterate” workers entering Oman and a decrease in skilled workers – classified as those with higher degrees – between June and July, according to government data.
 
A senior police official told Times of Oman: “There is a move to decrease the number of Bangladeshi workforce in the Sultanate. It’s not for all professions. The focus is only on (reducing) the unskilled workforce. Sanad [administrative] offices have been directed by the Royal Oman Police (ROP) to follow these instructions.”
 
An official from a Sanad office in Ruwi added: “There is a restriction. It is not as easy as in the past to get a visa for an unskilled or semi-skilled worker from Bangladesh.”
 
Oman’s Bangladeshi workforce has steadily increased: there were 659,366 Bangladeshis working in the country in July, reflecting a 1.2 per cent rise from 651,820 in June, according to government data. In May, there were 639,899 employees compared to 590,170 in December 2015.
 
Gaining visa approvals for Bangladeshi workers has recently become more difficult, reported an official from Durar Al Aliya, a manpower supply agency.
 
“If we have 10 visa clearances, then we can get one visa for a Bangladeshi worker,” Sateesh Kumar told Times of Oman.
 
Others said the lack of workers had forced them to hire visa-free workers to finish construction projects, which is illegal. Sunil Kumar, a construction company official in Muscat, was quoted as saying the government should issue visas for genuine contractors to avoid them falling foul of the law.
 
To stop illegal immigration, a Bangladesh embassy official recently called for an amnesty, allowing workers to turn themselves in and be deported without having to pay a fine for overstaying.
 
He said: “Hundreds of jobless workers are languishing in Oman without proper papers. The majority of them are not in a position to clear the fines and fly back home. So we feel that by announcing an amnesty, we can resolve this overstaying workers issue and help them.
 
“We are aware that the numbers of overstaying and undocumented workers will be thousands. Government can announce an amnesty and rescue these workers. We somehow manage to repatriate sick workers, even if they are undocumented, with the help of the Oman government, by writing off their fines, but it cannot be done for all.”
 
An illegal immigrant would have to pay around OMR20 for visa charges and OMR19 for every month they remain in Oman.