For Nisar Ahmad (name changed), an electrician from Pakistan, it was the opportunity of a lifetime when he got a call for job in Muscat, a few months back. He was promised a promising salary, free accommodation, food, and travelling allowance. Finally his efforts seemed to be paying back. But when he arrived his eyes were shocked open to a strikingly different reality. There was no such job as promised. Even the company, which offered him the job didn't exist.
Left in the middle of nowhere, he decided to stay on and do odd jobs for survival. That seemed the only solution for him, having taken a debt of Rs. 2 lakh to pay for the 'job' that was never given to him. What followed was a life of struggle until one day he was deported. There are many like Nisar from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, who overstay in Oman or do not possess valid visas/passports, thereby inviting action against them.
The Sultanate is home to nearly one million expatriates from the Indian sub-continent. Hundreds of people come every month in search of their bread and butter, often on false promises given by fraudulent agents in Indian cities who lure them with bright prospects and then leave them in the lurch, sources say. However, most of these victims, instead of immediately approaching the authorities in Oman or their country's embassy for help, choose to stay on illegally until one day they are nabbed.
Officials at the Indian Embassy declined to comment on the issue. However, according to a very active Indian social worker in Oman, P. M. Jabir, who has spent decades sorting out different types of conflicts faced by Indian workers in Oman, "Most of the people in trouble are labourers who are prone to be duped easily. When they arrive, they get a dose of reality, much to their surprise. Often they settle down with whatever is offered to them, even if it is not their field, but sometimes they decide to run away," said Jabir, who is Community Welfare Secretary of the Indian Social Club in Oman.
Jabir, however, adds that workers, by running away, only made matters worse for themselves, earning a label of absconders and making themselves liable to punishment. "Omani law and order is very strict and you can't escape from it for long. Sooner or later you are going to be nabbed, and rightly so."
An official from the Embassy of Bangladesh was of the opinion that prosecution of offenders should be effectively carried out by both, the host country and the country of origin of the employee. He felt, along with the workers, a check should also be kept on the agents involved in offering fake visas who create problems for the poor expatriates.
The official further said, in case of any kind of fraud or other untoward situation, the worker must immediately register his complaint with the labour court. Running away doesn't solve the problem, it only compounds it. "The authorities don't want to keep them confined. There are protocols involved, plus the arrangement of funds for deportation (which in most cases the absconders do not have) makes the entire repatriating process cumbersome," the official explained.
Left in a lurch
According to Shahid Javed, Community Welfare Attache, Embassy of Pakistan, there are some fraudulent agents in every country who provide fake visas to unsuspecting victims who hope to make a good earning abroad. Visas are usually provided by the host country for expansion/diversification of business but there is possibility of this facility being misused.
"The authorities have parameters of checking the business before granting the license for hiring manpower, but some agencies make temporary arrangements to meet the criteria. It is good that the authorities are carrying out inspections and, I hope, the situation is changing for the better," said Javed stressing that random and regular checks should be implemented, especially on small and medium businesses.
Abdussalam Nagi, a senior Pakistani expatriate living in Muscat for more than 35 years,