Thousands of workers to benefit from amnesty

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KATHMANDU, APR 05 – Thousands of Nepali migrants in Oman and Bahrain are expected to return home in the coming months following the pledge of the Gulf states to grant amnesty to undocumented immigrants working illegally in their countries.

The Omani government earlier this week announced that it will grant special amnesty to facilitate illegal immigrants to leave the country. The amnesty will begin from this week, according to the Oman branch of the Non-resident Nepali Association (NRNA).

Reliable data are hard to come by but stakeholders say at least 4,000 Nepalis working without legal status in Oman are likely to benefit from the amnesty.

Most of the illegal migrants depend on such occasional amnesties to return home as it is very hard for them to return from the Gulf states where one requires permission of employers for exist visa. Many have to go via prison-like deportation centres before leaving the country.

“It’s a great opportunity for many Nepali migrants working here without legal documents. We urge all to take this opportunity,” reads a statement issued by the Oman branch of the NRNA. Oman last announced such amnesty four years ago. Some 20,000 Nepali migrant workers are supposed to be working in Oman. The Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) issued permits to 3435 men and women to work there in the last fiscal year.

Oman has given a three-month period for immigrants to utilise the amnesty offer, according to the Nepali Embassy in Muscat. The embassy said the Omani authorities have allocated Wednesday for undocumented Nepali workers to apply for the exit pass. The applicant will be able to leave the country after one month.

In a 10-point agreement signed between Ausamah Abdulla Alabsi, chief executive officer of the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA), and Bishwa Prakash Subedi, DoFE under-secretary, the Bahraini delegation has pledged amnesty for undocumented Nepali workers there.

“On the request of the Nepali delegation for safe repatriation of undocumented Nepali workers, the Bahraini delegation stated the intent of announcing an amnesty by mid-year 2015,” reads the agreement.

The delegation has also expressed its commitment to ensure the minimum wage fixed by the government, provide free health care, free visa and monitor exploitation of workers from recruiting agencies and agents. The country plans to recruit 100,000 Nepali workers within two years.

Stakeholders said the delegation had lobbied for lifting the ban on female domestic workers and fast-track the recruitment process.

Nepal has signed a labour agreement for general workers with Bahrain, but has not signed any agreement for domestic workers though thousands of housemaids go there. An estimated 45,000 Nepalis work in Bahrain, while the number of those with illegal status is believed to be more than 5,000.

Many Nepali workers, mostly women, take the informal way to reach these countries though the trend is reportedly decreasing in the wake of the ban and the establishment of embassies there.