As the grace period for Qatar residents living here illegally nears its end, several local embassies have been pleading for more time to assist their nationals.
In August, the Ministry of Interior (MOI) announced a three-month window for certain expats to exit Qatar without legal consequences.
However, they need to provide proper documentation for the process to go smoothly.
Speaking to Doha News, the embassies of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in Qatar said this has caused financial and legal issues for some.
Many people who wish to avail of the amnesty lack a valid passport, travel papers, plane tickets and/or their Qatar ID cards and entry visa copies.
More time needed
Extending the amnesty period from Dec. 1 to Jan. 1 would help officials sort out these issues, said a representative from the Bangladesh Embassy.
“So far, we’re able to handle (them), and we’re trying our best to help those without legal documentation.
But if the government can grant an extension, that would be better, because we’re hoping that they can leave the country before the deadline without any consequences,” he said.
However, in a tweet this week, the MOI reiterated plans to stick to its deadline:
— Ministry of Interior (@MOI_QatarEn) November 7, 2016
Additionally, a senior MOI official said last month that an extension was unlikely, as the amnesty was already “long enough.”
However, he added that some exceptions can be made for humanitarian reasons.
By the numbers
Since Sept. 1, thousands of expats have requested to leave Qatar via the amnesty scheme.
The Sri Lankan Embassy reported that more than 500 of its nationals have left so far. Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Embassy is receiving some 100 applications a day for help.
The Sri Lankan Embassy said it is expecting a gradual increase in the number until the deadline.
“It is really up to the government, but the number of people who are coming to us keeps on increasing, so we’re trying our best,” an official at the mission said.
Several other embassies have also reported rising demand for amnesty assistance, including the Philippines, Indian and Nepali missions in Qatar.
However, these officials have not publicly called for an extension to the grace period.
Once the amnesty period is over, officials have warned of a crackdown on people who continue to live and work here illegally.
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.