Oman takes steps to legalise overstaying expat workers


Accordingly, all outstanding fines and fees, payable by both the erring workers and their employers, accrued up to the end of 1993 have been written off, Labour Affairs Under-secretary Sayyid Hamad bin Hilal Al Busaidy told a Press conference here.



For the period between 1994 and 2001, the ministry has waived 50 per cent of the unpaid labour fees and 100 per cent of all penalties. Also, all fines for 2002 and 2003 have been cancelled, while the pending fees for this period must be paid in full.



For 2004, 50 per cent of the outstanding fines have been waived, but the fees have to paid in full.



The ministry has allowed companies and individual sponsors a grace period of four month to contact it with all details about defaulting workers. It will start processing such cases from Saturday.



Sayyid Hamad noted that regulating the labour market and creating an integrated database for the country’s workforce was one of the recommendations of the third national manpower employment forum.



A committee consisting of representatives from the ministries of finance, national economy, commerce and industry and manpower and the Royal Oman Police (ROP) was formed to verify and rectify all data on expatriate labour in the ministry’s records.



The committee, Sayyid Hamad said, had completed its task that revealed “large amounts of overdue and pending payments emanating from establishments and individuals”.



The new steps are based on the committee’s proposals.



Non-payment of outstanding fees, he explained, was mainly due to non-renewal of labour cards, adding: “All of this has been coordinated in the context of a partnership between private and public sectors represented by the OCCI. On this basis, processes and procedures have been planned and are to be put in place.”



He said companies and individuals would be obliged to bear the legal consequences of any incorrect data supplied by them, and the ministry would take necessary legal action to collect corresponding outstanding amounts once specified periods for payments had expired.



"God help us against the sectarian strife which is tearing up all countries around us, not just Iraq and Lebanon." He stressed that the "entire area is experiencing the sectarian threat at a very dangerous level and could explode at any moment because of some parties who are determined to destabilize the region." He said he was saddened by the unrest in Lebanon, "which could lead to a military showdown. But I hope it does not get to that extent." He pointed out that the crisis in Lebanon could only be resolved through national reconciliation among the Lebanese themselves.



Turning to the issue of the threat of military action against Iran by the US and its allies over the Iranian refusal to end its uranium-enrichment activities in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions against that, Sheikh Nasser said Kuwait was opposed to any military solution to that issue.



"Any military solution against Iran would have drastic and dramatic repercussions on the area’s security, economy and the environment and could lead to a worsening of current international tension," Sheikh Nasser said.



He dismissed the idea of imminent military action as a result of the "presence of US combat fleet in Arab Gulf water." "Kuwait does not accept any failure of the diplomatic option because the diplomatic channels are still open and there is still room for dialogue." He added that any new conflict in the area "would lead to destructive wars for the entire region." With regard to the inter-Palestinian clashes, Sheikh Nasser said that the recent Makkah Accord between Fatah and Hamas was considered as a step in the right direction towards reviving the stalled Middle East peace process.



He added that Palestinian political leaders should act responsibly and "bring to a halt the inter-Palestinian strife while preserving national unity." He added that international terrorism had entered a new phase after the September 11 attacks against the US. He blamed the lack of understanding between religious faiths for the current tension between East and West and among the countries of the area as well as among groups within the same country.



At domestic level, Sheikh Nasser denied any plan for dissolving the Kuwaiti National Assembly as a way out of the current problems between the executive and legislative branches of government.



The government believes in "strict implementation of the Kuwaiti constitution," he said. He added that the government here was determined to go ahead with its current administrative reforms in a bid to root out administrative corruption." He described Kuwait’s relations with Egypt as "unique and special."


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