Posted on September 01, 2016

A three-month amnesty for illegal residents, coming after about 14 years, will take effect in Qatar today. The Search and Follow Up Department of the Ministry of Interior will start receiving expatriates seeking amnesty at its premises off Salwa Road from this afternoon. Amnesty seekers can approach the Department from 2pm to 8pm from Sunday to Thursday every week to complete the formalities for their departure.

During amnesty, which ends on December 1, illegal residents will be able to leave the country without facing the legal consequences stated in the law (No 4 of 2009) regulating the entry, exit and residency of expatriates. The punishment for violations of the law includes jail, fines and deportation from the country. This is the third amnesty in Qatar and the first after the Law No 4 of 2009 was enforced and it comes ahead of the enforcement of the new law (No 21 of 2015) regulating entry, exit and residency of expatriates. The last amnesty was declared on March 21, 2004 and ended on July 21, the same year, enabling about 10,000 illegal residents to leave the country, mostly from South Asian countries.

“According to the ministry announcement, all violators who report (at the Search and Follow Up Department) within the amnesty period, will be exempted from all the legal consequences. The competent authority at the Ministry of Interior will study each case separately. There is a possibility for some cases to be settled, while others will be sent home,” Yousuf Zaman, a prominent Qatari lawyer told The Peninsula. “The ministry is basically targeting runaway workers and those who have violated the law under different circumstances.”

If anyone faces problems in completing the formalities for departure due to the lack of required documents, the ministry would give them enough time to prepare the papers, he said. Everyone, except those who have court cases or complaints filed against them by banks or their sponsors, will be allowed to leave the country without any hurdles. The sponsor will not be responsible for any financial liabilities of a worker unless he has given a written undertaking to this effect, explained Al Zaman. He said some workers seeking amnesty may be able to settle their cases and transfer their sponsorship depending on the nature of their cases.

Al Zaman said, the ministry may have declared the amnesty to allow all illegal residents to leave the country before implementation of the new law (No 21 of 2005). Most of the offenders are low-income workers and they go hiding because they cannot pay the huge fines or don’t want to face jail. Meanwhile, embassies and expatriate organizations have stepped in support the amnesty seeking residents from their respective communities in all possible ways. R K Singh, Second Secretary and Coordinating Officer at the Indian embassy said that some 6000 to 8000 Indians are expected to benefit from the current amnesty.

The Indian Cultural Centre (ICC). the umbrella body of Indian expatriate organizations recently held a meeting of all affiliate bodies and representatives of Indian schools to coordinate efforts in this regard. Singh told the meeting that a list of requirements will be provided by ICC to affiliate bodies after getting instructions from the Ministry of Interior. A senior official of the Sri Lankan embassy said that the mission has received several phone calls from community members seeking information about the amnesty procedures and the requirements.

“As a preparation we are working to keep some papers ready, because many runaway workers would not have the required travel documents,” said the official.

source: The Peninsula