Illegal remittances on ministry radar

Business Tuesday 15/October/2019 23:07 PM
By: Times News Service

Muscat: Remittances sent by expatriate workers to their families in their home countries will now be tracked by the Omani government, as it looks to clamp down on money sent outside the country by foreign workers who are here illegally.

These workers normally send money home either through friends or extended members of their families who also stay in the country. Now, a special committee has been set up by the Ministry of Manpower, with assistance from the Central Bank of Oman, the Sultanate’s financial regulatory body, to stop this.

Salim Al Badi, the Director General of Labour Welfare at the Ministry of Manpower, said, “The illegal workers get help from either their friends or citizens, who in turn send money to their family back home under their names. This way of remitting money is illegal and makes it hard to track them. However, the Central Bank of Oman is going to be vigilant in this matter, as a committee has been formed to deal with this issue.”

Al Badi was speaking to Oman TV, the Sultanate’s national broadcaster, and added that violations of the country’s labour laws were among the main reasons behind the arrests of those expats who were held by the authorities.

He said, “The majority of expats who are arrested for breaching labour laws are absconding workers. Daily inspection visits are conducted to clamp down on violators of the labour law. Close to 51.3 percent of those detained had left their place of employment, accounting for 12,524 of the arrested. Another 8,509 were laid-off, and 3,363 entered the country on tourist and visit visas and worked in the Sultanate illegally.”

Al Badi added that from the beginning of 2019 to the month of September, 1,009 absconding workers had been arrested. In the context of illegal workers who sent money to their families back home, he explained that many local sponsors allowed their foreign workers to find work elsewhere, while continuing to remain on their visas, a practice that is deemed unlawful.

“Some Omani sponsors allow their expat workers to go work in other jobs, which violates the labour law of the country. Unfortunately, this is a reason that leads to the issue of absconding workers, and citizens must cooperate with the ministry in this regard,” explained Al Badi.

According to the country’s laws, companies that hire workers that have been reported or registered as absconding will be handed a fine of OMR 1,000, in addition to covering the costs of the air ticket required to send the expats back to their home countries. Agencies who use illegal methods to hire expats will also face punishments. 153 complaints have been raised against manpower recruitment agencies so far this year, of which 78 have been referred to the courts.

Omani authorities arrested a total of 24,396 expatriate workers in 2018, 9,731 of whom were arrested in Muscat Governorate. 5,044 arrests were made in North Batinah, 3,813 in A ’Dakhiliyah, and 1,602 were arrested in South Batinah. Nearly two-thirds of those arrested were from Bangladesh (about 18,123), while Pakistanis arrested stood at 3,383 and Indians made up another 1,863.

In addition, close to 11,921 expat workers were deported in 2018, compared to 12,944 in 2017, according to the Ministry of Manpower’s annual report. 34,000 expatriate workers left Oman’s private sector in 2018, a result of the Sultanate pushing forward with its Omanisation policies to provide more employment opportunities to locals in the workforce. A total of 34,266 expatriate workers left the nation’s private sector in 2018, which means that the total number of foreign workers in the country stood at 1,890,573 at the end of 2018, compared to 1,924,839 at the end of the previous year.