Thousands of workers leave Qatar as amnesty ends

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Chantelle D'mello

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

More than 3,500 undocumented workers in Qatar have left the country under the government’s amnesty scheme, which ended today.

People still living in Qatar without the legal paperwork are now expected to face tougher action by authorities.

The grace period began in September, after the Ministry of Interior (MOI) announced a three-month window for violators of Residence Law (No. 4 of 2004) to exit Qatar without legal consequences.

Workers waiting at the Search & Follow Up Department on Salwa Road.

Aparajita Mukherjee / Doha News

Workers waiting at the Search & Follow Up Department on Salwa Road.

To avail of the amnesty, residents were asked to provide proper documentation to the ministry’s Search and Follow Up Department.

Others who lost their passports, or needed extra assistance with legal papers, have been consulting with their designated embassies.

While some embassies are still waiting for the final count of applicants from the MOI, a few reported approximate figures.

Numbers so far

Since Sept. 1, thousands of expats have requested to leave Qatar via the amnesty scheme.

The Embassy of Bangladesh told Doha News that around 2,500 Bangladeshi residents have left Qatar.

Meanwhile, 159 Pakistanis and around 230 Filipinos also left the country, and in mid-November, the Sri Lankan Embassy said that more than 500 of its nationals had already gone.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Mohamad Alodaima/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The total tally is expected to rise as embassies said they will receive the final count from the MOI in the coming days.

“For those who are leaving, their (the workers’) sponsors usually turn in their passports at the Search and Follow Up Department at the Ministry of Interior, and from there they can proceed with the system, so it’s the first step in the process and it’s why we don’t have the total figures yet,” explained a representative from the Philippines Embassy.

Three weeks ago, some local embassies pleaded for more time to assist their nationals with legal and financial issues.

They reported that many people who had applied to leave didn’t have a valid passport, travel papers, plane tickets and/or their Qatar ID cards and entry visa copies.

Consequences

The MOI sent a reminded via Twitter reminding residents of the final day of the scheme, and the required documents needed.

In October, the ministry warned of a crackdown starting Dec. 1 on people who remain to live and work illegally in the country.

Officials announced that they will take strict legal action against violators.

It is against the law for expats to work in Qatar without valid documentation.

Additionally, those who wish to switch jobs must get approval from their current employer.

Sometimes, domestic workers who quit their jobs and leave their sponsor’s home can be classified as “runaway” or “absconding” employees.

They are subject to arrest and deportation, and anyone who hires them without proper documentation faces fines and jail time.

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