200 runaway workers held in swoop

December 06, 2012 - 3:40:29 am

DOHA: Some 200 runaway workers holed up in an abandoned school building in the Musherib area of the city have been rounded up by law-enforcement agencies.

The Ministry of Interior has described the swoop as a major success of its ongoing campaign to trace foreign workers who have escaped their sponsors and are living and working illegally.

The Ministry said on its website yesterday that the arrested workers were living in the school building “secretly”. It didn’t give further details as to what the nationalities of the workers were and whether they were employed illegally.

The Ministry said sleuths from its Search and Follow-Up Department, acting on a tip-off, raided the place after seeking legal approval from the authorities concerned and took the workers into custody.

“We received a tip-off that a large number of runaway workers were living in an unused school building in Musherib, so we immediately set up search teams under the supervision of Colonel Nasser Al Sayed, Director of the Search and Follow-Up Department,” the Ministry said. “We sought the necessary approval from the authorities concerned and raided the place and arrested the workers. They were living in violation of the country’s law (Number 1 of 2009) regulating the entry and residency of foreign workers.”

The owner of the school building has been referred to the authorities concerned for questioning and legal action, the Ministry said. The building, it seems, was let out to someone who sublet it and that’s how it became a secret den for so many runaway workers.

Those arrested have been referred to the authorities responsible for looking into violations of the entry and residency law. The drive aimed at detecting runaway workers will continue, hinted the Ministry.

The entry and residency law specifies heavy fines for violators that can run up to tens of thousands of riyals and jail term of up to three years.

Last August, for example, a private company was fined a deterring QR220,000 ($60, 274) by a court here for employing a runaway worker. 

Meanwhile, The Peninsula has learned that the Ministry is turning its attention to schools across the country to check the status of their employees, mainly bus and van drivers who ferry schoolchildren.

No private school is to be spared in this campaign. The Ministry’s plans to crackdown on private schools follow a recent discovery that one school had in its employ some runaway workers.

These workers, the Ministry said on its website, were found to be on some other sponsorship and the school had hired them illegally. “There were police notifications against these workers, nevertheless they were employed by the school,” the Ministry said. “Legal action has been initiated against school officials.”

The Ministry believes that some schools might be employing runaway drivers, that too, without verifying their credentials. School drivers should be legally required to be trained in First Aid and children’s supervision.

The Peninsula