MOI rounds up 178 absconding workers as penalties for hiring runaways increase

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Following a tip-off, the Ministry of Interior has detained some 141 illegal workers and 37 people for aiding and harboring them in houses dotted around the country.

The MOI’s Search and Follow up Department (SFD) made the arrests in raids across Qatar as part of its ongoing crackdown on violators of the country’s employment and visa laws.

The more than three dozen “leaders” of the groups have confessed to smuggling workers away from their sponsors, and charging them a fee to help them find work illegally, the MOI says. The organizers of the scheme also set up accommodations for the workers in 28 different locations across the country.

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The 37 people hail from two separate groups. While their ages and genders have not been identified, the MOI says the first group of 18 people are “mostly of East Asian origin” and the second group of 19 is made up of “mixed nationalities, run by an Arab national.”

Between them, the MOI says that the two groups were responsible for 141 illegal workers, all runaways – 78 housemaids, 39 drivers and 24 laborers.

Harsher penalties

Those operating the scheme and the illegal workers are now in custody as the Public Prosecution moves to draw up a formal case against them.

According to Brig. Nasser Eissa Al-Sayed, head of the SFD, the group’s crimes “come under the range of human trafficking,” and his department “will spare no effort” when dealing with violators of the law. 

MOI made no mention of whether those employing the absconders will face prosecution. But in tweeting about the arrests, the MOI pointed out that the penalty for employing illegal workers has recently been increased: 

Under the previous rules, repeat offenders would have been imprisoned for up to 3 years, with the same fine imposed. 

First-time offenders are fined between QR20,000 and QR30,000. 

The MOI’s crackdown on illegal workers has been the focus of criticism in the past, with some commentators suggesting that the government should also focus on the reasons why workers feel the need to abscond from their employers, rather than simply punishing those who choose to do so.

Thoughts on this?

Credit: Top photo by Richard Messenger; second photo from MOI

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