Muscat: A cap, or even an outright ban, on recruiting expatriate workers from nationalities deemed to have "negative records" in Oman has been proposed by Municipal Council members.
Elected members belonging to Muscat governorate have advocated capping the number of expats of certain nationalities in recruitment, regulating issuance of visas for nationalities under scanner and taking stringent steps to deal with the menace of absconding workers.
At a recent meeting of the Municipal Council, some members felt that "a balance needs to be maintained while issuing visas for different nationalities".
Some of the council members even suggested that visas "for certain nationalities, which have negative records", should be stopped.
He explained that the government should stop issuing visas to people of any such nationalities that have a lot of "negative records" against them.
He added that it was time Oman changed its attitude towards some nationalities.
According to official figures, there are 597,769 Indians, 510,470 Bangladeshis, 222,355 Pakistanis, 43,201 Ethiopians, 31,511 Indonesians, 29,426 Filipinos, 23,021 Egyptians, 12,867 Nepalese and 12,557 Sri Lankans in Oman.
Some of the members even worried that if the ministry continued to issue unlimited number of visas for expatriates, they may outnumber the citizens. They felt that controlling the number of expatriates might help in organising the labour market in Oman. Members urged the Ministry of Manpower to put in place more regulations while bringing expatriate labour to the Sultanate.
Members also called for strict penalties to be imposed on absconding expat workers and any individuals found hiring the absconding workers.
The Ministry of Manpower had earlier announced that the number of absconding expat workers arrested in 2012 stood at 15,000, up from 11,000 in 2011. The Ministry of Manpower statistics revealed that 5,000 housemaids absconded during the same period.
To a Municipal Council member who suggested that the Ministry of Manpower must issue a replacement visa for an absconding expat worker, a member said, "This may lead to the doubling of the number of expatriates in Oman." He added that such a regulation might encourage more expat workers to abscond.
'Building owners can track absconders'
Stressing that there should be stricter penalties on companies offering jobs to absconding expat workers, a municipal council member said, "It is only the sponsor who bears the brunt. The sponsor has to first register a report about a missing expat worker at the police station, advertise such information in a newspaper, pay for the outbound ticket and also pay to replace the expat worker."
He suggested that the government must reduce some of the burden borne by the sponsor.
They also pointed out that building owners find it a good business to shelter absconding expat workers. "Therefore, it should be mandatory that a building owner carries out a regular check on their properties, especially when renting these out to single expatriates," said the member.
He added that the number of the expat workers living in each apartment must be stated in the renting contract.
"It is very easy for building owners to identify the absconding expat workers through their residence cards or by contacting their sponsors," said the member.
The Municipal Council also endorsed the statement made by the Directorate-General of Labour Care to involve the Muscat Municipality in the joint inspection teams of the Ministry of Manpower and the Royal Oman Police to nab the illegal expat workers.
He added that instead of referring the cases to the Muscat Municipality later, it is better for the municipality to be involved directly.