Oman: 1,000 foreign workers arrested in Muscat

Major construction sites need workers but few rights

28 May, 14:03

    (by Virginia Di Marco) (ANSAmed) - ROME, MAY 28 - Over 1,000 workers without a permit to work on construction sites have been discovered this week in Muscat, Oman, while they were working on the construction of a new international airport in the capital, a project worth several billion euros.

    The illegal workers, including many Bangladeshi nationals, were admitted into the sultanate as house or restaurant help.

    They will be soon expelled and the firms employing them - which have not been identified - will need to pay a hefty fine, said the director general for wellbeing in the labor market of the Ministry of human resources, Salim bin said al-Badi, in comments quoted by the local press.

    But this is not just the story of a mass arrest. It is rather the umpteenth and clear sign of the contrasts registered in the country between immigration policies on one side and huge plans for infrastructural development which the government is bringing forward and means to complete in the near future.

    Recently, Oman has started a sort of revolution, investing on transport and industrial projects with the final aim of diversifying the economy, up until now almost entirely based on oil sales.

    In order to carry out this systemic plan, foreign workers are necessary while at the same time institutions want to limit and control their access. And by analyzing the demography of the country it is easy to understand why: today, foreign workers in Oman are some 1.5 million out of a total population with just over 3.6 million citizens. Since 2013, the government of Muscat has announced a crackdown on working permits for foreigners, sparking the protest of many companies - mainly in construction - that complain they are not able to recruit the workforce they need anymore.

    Local media are reporting on a daily basis stories of illegal foreign workers who have been arrested: but security forces don't seem to be greatly deterring the phenomenon. The dream of a job - even if it is illegal and poorly paid - continues to attract thousands and thousands of people from across the region. Just yesterday the Times of Oman published a story on how workers are recruited for the day at dawn on the country's streets. Hundreds of desperate people, said the paper, queue on the street, hoping to work on the many construction sites. Some know they are breaking the law; others don't think so, believing their 'entry permit' also enables them to work. But such a permit will not save them from prison, nor from deportation.


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