Rise in number of runaway workers

November 12, 2012 - 4:54:47 am

DOHA: There was a significant increase in the number of expatriates caught working illegally with non-sponsors last year and referred to the special court. The court at the Search and Follow-Up Department of the Ministry of Interior heard 7,900 such cases in 2011 as opposed to just 5,010 the previous year, official figures show.

Most of those caught and referred for legal action were runaway workers, it is understood. Lawyers say the volume of court cases merely reflects the tip of the iceberg as the actual number of illegal workers in the country should be much more.

Complaints have been galore in the Qatari community about domestic workers such as maids and drivers fleeing the households that sponsor them and the trend largely remains unchecked.

Community sources say drivers are most likely to ditch a family after acquiring a driver’s licence since they are in demand and offered better wages. Some of them who have worked with a family for a while make some savings and flee and even manage to buy used cars and begin operating private taxis. There are others who land jobs with families that are in desperate need of drivers or companies that don’t ask for official papers.

A citizen told this newspaper yesterday that he sponsored a driver for his family and sent him to a driving school for licence, in all spending about QR10,000. However, after a while the driver suddenly disappeared and he got a message from the authorities after two years that he was deported.

“Soon after the driver vanished I went to the interior ministry’s department concerned to file a complaint of his disappearance and submitted his passport…and I got a message from the department after two years that he had been deported,” said the citizen, wondering it took the authorities so long to zero in on the driver.

As for maids, the latest trend, according to community sources, is that many of them run away from their sponsors after making contacts locally and begin working as house cleaners or cooks in expatriate families, including with westerners, on a part-time basis and earn relatively well. 

An expatriate woman said she had a part-time maid for cleaning her home and she paid her QR25 an hour.

Asked for comment, lawyer Mohsin Thiyab Al Suwaidi, said a foreign worker caught working illegally with a family or company could face a maximum jail term of three years and fine or either. 

The person or company providing employment to a runaway worker or to someone who is not under his or the company’s sponsorship is also liable to be penalized, he said.

However, the number of court cases represents only a tip of the iceberg as their actual number could run into many more thousands, said Al Suwaidi. 

He said many foreigners arriving here on business, tourist and visit visas also flout rules and take up jobs. Illegal workers are a threat to social security and so they must be hunted down, he added. The Peninsula