Muscat: In an ironic twist of fate a large number of illegal workers are trying in vain to get out of Oman at a time when the authorities continue a relentless campaign to weed out illegal expatriates.
A gathering of over 50 workers at the Clock Tower lawns in Ruwi area drew everyone’s attention as they interacted with a social worker. “These workers, mostly from India’s southern state of Andhra Pradesh, are illegal residents and for the last two to three years they are trying to return home,” Rita ‘Ruchika’ Samuel, who runs an internet-based helpline service for expatriates in Oman, told Gulf News.
She added that some of the illegal workers had tried every possibly way to get out of Oman but failed. “Some of them suffer from serious ailments and have no money to seek treatment,” she said. A 50-year-old diabetic is suffering from acute cellulitis, which is rapidly spreading on his left leg. “I am now helpless and cannot even work to earn, therefore, I want to go home,” pleaded Manda Rajeshwaran. He came to Oman legally in 2006 to work with a manpower supply company but absconded after four months. “I had paid an agent in India Rs80,000 (about 516 Omani riyals) and after coming here I was paid only 39 Omani riyals monthly salary for more than 12 hours’ work,” he said, justifying his decision to run away.
Since then he had worked with different companies on construction sites, earning daily wages. “I earned about five to seven riyals a day with my work,” he said, adding that he could then send money back home to his family every month. “It was enough to sustain me here and my family back home, but there was no saving,” He explained why he doesn’t have savings to fall back on as he cannot work due to his painful leg. “My diabetic condition has made this [cellulitis] even worse,” he said pointing at his left leg.
A doctor, who treats Rajeshwaran at a private clinic, told Gulf News that he needs surgery soon to stop the spread of cellulitis to the bones.
Palaka Anandbrahma, 35, is a victim of a ‘free visa’ system. He paid Rs1,20,000 (about 775 riyals) to get an employment visa through an agent in India. “When I landed in 2008 there was no one to receive me at the airport and since then I have been running pillar to post,” Anandbrahma told Gulf News.
His biggest regret is that he could not visit his ailing wife who underwent a heart surgery. “During the 2010 amnesty, I went through the procedure to exit, got my outpass but I am still here,” he said, adding that now he has been told that he can only leave Oman after paying a 1,800 riyal fine for overstaying and not applying for a resident card. “I have never seen my sponsor and those Indian middlemen have disappeared,” he said mournfully. “Most workers are even ready to court arrest and get deported but that is also not happening,” Samuel said, adding that there are other groups in different areas with similar tales to tell. Anandbrahma claimed that sometimes even after being caught they are released.
“Those arrested and deported every week are Asians but not Indians,” claimed a worker, who didn’t want to be quoted.