Tidbit: Oman To Deport About 3,500 Surplus Indian Workers

More news on the "South Asians building the Gulf" front.   According to PTI:

The Ministry of Manpower published a list of 3,497 Indians in a newspaper asking them to cooperate with authorities to facilitate their repatriation, failing which they will have to pay a fine and face legal action as well.

In November last year, following a request from the Indian embassy, the Oman government had agreed to allow illegally residing Indians to leave the country without paying any fines but subject to normal checking of their antecedents.

"Two lists, one with 5,541 names of persons who came with employment visa, and another with 2,603 names of persons who had come on visit visa, have been submitted to the government, seeking permission for their repatriation," Anil Wadhwa, Indian ambassador to Oman, said.

The Indian embassy has urged the overstaying workers, whose names appear in the list, to make use of the chance and cooperate with the ministry and embassy to facilitate their repatriation.

The list includes workers overstaying in Oman and whose names were registered with the Embassy of India during the last amnesty scheme in November 2007.

I don't know nearly enough about the specifics of South Asians in the gulf to comment effectively, but I can say that it sounds like a standard tactic in the global economy from the U.S. to Lebanon:  you (the elite) maintain a pool of labor with limited rights, use them to provide low-wage labor like domestic work or construction, hold down wages and distract the "citizens"--who in some cases may not even be a majority--and then toss them out when you need to.  You can give them status too, but that's more infrequent in these days of relatively free trade without totally unfree movement of labor.

But hopefully someone can address this in more detail in the comments.  Like I said, I don't know enough about this and it's a really important issue for those interested in the South Asian diaspora(s) on a number of fronts: the numbers of desis in the Gulf and their economic importance and social role in the sending countries; understanding global migration better; and understanding the shape of the world that's emerging better (i.e. is the Gulf a 3rd pole in global capitalism along with E Asia / Europe-SettlerColonies or is it something else?).  And I'm sure there's a lot of other things that I just don't know about.


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Nepali migrant workers in

Nepali migrant workers in Saudia Arabia:


Sri Lankan migrant women facing exploitation in the Mideast, (and SL government not really addressing the exploitation they face):


Forgot to add: the five

Forgot to add: the five people I personally know who left during this exercise were back within a month with proper visas, doing much the same job but no longer needing to sleep in the basement of my apartment building under the SUVs they used to wash - this finally is what I meant by "for the good".

Responding to Dr A:

Responding to Dr A: Technically it's not deportation, in the sense that the avenue of becoming a legal migrant worker is still open. They're being put on a plane back home without legal consequences - that was the sum of the agreement last year between the Indian government and the Gulf countries.

Why I read it as a step forward is this: their illegal status puts them out of reach of the law makers/enforcers, leading to the worst excesses of ill-treatment, underground and uncontrollable. The sheer number of illegal workers means that the exploitation industry is large-scale and organised, spilling over into the legal workers' lives and undermining efforts through the "proper channels" to bring positive change. Between the passing of the law and it's effects being felt in the labour camps are many, many obstacles that have vested interests in having things stay the way they are.

In spite of the tenor of the reporting, the return-home campaign was not inhumane. The returning workers may not have felt it at the time, but it was for the good. I've seen the extent of the exploitation.

Wow, the word paternalism

Wow, the word paternalism made me stop and think long and hard! But no, I am not after all an unconscious Tory, what a relief :)

These were people who were working here without the requisite resident visas and with long-expired tourist visas. The penalty for that is jail/fine/deportation (including a ban on future legal entry) no matter what socio-economic class you belong to.

So they had to stay invisible. And when a migrant worker has no recourse to the usual forces of justice or their embassy - even on paper - whoever he or she is working for essentially becomes a slave-owner. The longer they stay here, the more trapped they are. Some had not returned home or seen their families for up to ten years.

I know that cost of return was borne by the local and Indian governments (mostly through Air India as far as I can tell) but I don't know if anything was done about lost wages.

Thanks for your comments

Thanks for your comments Gargoyle. It does sound like a more enlightened deportation regime than the U.S. one (though it's hard to imagine one that's less so).

And when a migrant worker has no recourse to the usual forces of justice or their embassy - even on paper - whoever he or she is working for essentially becomes a slave-owner.

This was my point about surplus pools of labor. This kind of solution will work if there's demand for labor that exceeds the number of migrant and other low wage workers - but if there wasn't, they would be treated far more harshly. The structural relationship between the Omani state, the Indian state, the Omani and Indian economies, and the migrant workers remains to some extent the same - though given the growth in the gulf and the legalization of rights for the workers you mentioned, their leverage increases somewhat.

The way you describe it sounds a bit like regularization, but if that's the case, I wonder what is the point of making them leave in the first place ;) Why not just give them visas without forcing them to go back to India and incur the costs of coming back to Oman? And if they did come back, what evidence is there that the former coyotes and snakeheads (or whatever the word is in Oman) didn't simply transform into "legal" travel agents that bilked the workers again on above board tactics.

A broader point, of course, is that this really is happening everywhere. For example, upon asking why they had to be sent to India, I started thinking about the U.S. proposals to send undocumented people back to their countries of origins with the idea that htey could seek reentry under a new scheme even if they were not documented when they left (along with numerous other obnoxious conditions). What is it about the transformation of the global economy that is making these solutions seem more appealing than a simple regularization of conditions, in whatever form (i.e. an amnesty?), that doesn't require yet more labor movement?

I did a study two years ago

I did a study two years ago on the emotional part of the kind of life the labourers lead, spent long days with them in their milieu. Contrary to popular belief, most of them are not a short-term workforce. They had been here for 10/20/30 years. Essentially, they are sacrifice generation. They came here to "make a better life for family", as one of them said. They are trapped here because their money has transformed their families permanently, lifted whole communities up several social levels - and the workers need to maintain the lifestyle they created. The saddest part of it all is that the families grow away from them, as they get more socially sophisticated, the worker father/brother/mother/sister becomes an embarrassment. This is most often at least part of the reason for those who've stayed here for more than 15 years.

Arising from all this is a strong condition of chronic loneliness, a sort of miasma of worry that sits on their shoulders like a mantle. But most of them wear this proudly. They believe they are achievers. And they are – they did what they set out to do. In all the conversations with them the only sign of regret or sorrow they showed was when they said that nobody acknowledges this. They don't want the pity. They don't even seem to want justice more than they want recognition.

I'm attempting to post

I'm attempting to post another comment with links but ptr is refusing to accept it. Oh well.

This might seem a bit

This might seem a bit incoherent – I'm not sure what exactly you're throwing open for discussion, so I'm just going to use it as I see fit :)

This bit of news deals with illegal workers (of which there are many - the Arabian Gulf being relatively easily accessible from the sub-continent and the community/village/hometown network, strong). That problem is fairly straightforward and not different to similar problems in other parts of the world.

But the issues surrounding the legal workers are many and complicated. Working conditions, living conditions, exploitation by both home-country recruiters and foreign employers are just a few of the problems.

The repatriation of illegal workers is actually one of the steps forward – the greatest obstacle to making life better for migrant labourers is the vast underground network of touts, labour traders and corrupt officials, feeding mostly on an illegal workforce.

For effective change, equal and simultaneous efforts need to be made from the importing country and the exporting one. Multinational developers, architects and contractors should be bearded in their dens, as it were, in their home countries where they are accountable for human rights.

The problem is finally being taken seriously by governments. Volunteer groups and NGOs have been working at it for years. The recent summit on the subject was the beginning of an organised collaboration. Laws exist, they're being enforced whenever injustices come to light. Change is happening, though slowly as the juggernaut takes time to turn.

Some links to different aspects of this below:

Labour pains in the Middle

Labour pains in the Middle East

Migrant Workers and Xenophobia in the Middle East

Lies, Grief and a Ticket Home for Illegal Indian Migrants

Several articles

Migrant Worker Remittances and Micro-Finance in Bangladesh

Embassy working to protect Indian workers in UAE: Ambassador

apologies Gargoyle, there

apologies Gargoyle, there were too many links for the spam filter.

The repatriation of illegal

The repatriation of illegal workers is actually one of the steps forward – the greatest obstacle to making life better for migrant labourers is the vast underground network of touts, labour traders and corrupt officials, feeding mostly on an illegal workforce.

Thank you for the comment, Gargoyle! I didn't understand this part. Why would deporting these people be good for them?

Is there any chance our

Is there any chance our Peoples' Artist holed up in Dubai will favour us some canvases on the lives of the expat mazdoor?

Is there any chance our

Is there any chance our Peoples’ Artist holed up in Dubai will favour us some canvases on the lives of the expat mazdoor?

Loll.. Please.. as if average indians, forget elite indians give a rat's ass about Indians or South Asians (this term is problematic to use in this geographical context but as usual American racial politics must overarch every narrative) in the Gulf. For them, the diaspora consists of those that live in Amrika, Lundun, and Austraylya. I love how these hierarchies of location are so pervasive and implicit in thought as to induce total invisibility and obscurity regarding the status of the diaspora in the Gulf. East or West of the Gulf, no one gives or has given a shit, particularly those performance-activists on Western Left that are blind to their own prioritizing of which "South Asian" issues matter and where...i.e. "Let's talk about Trinidad and Guyana and California" but try bringing up Kuwait, Saudi, Bahrain, the UAE etc and blank stare of disinterest will look back at you.

Sure, in the last 2 years, it has become an activist trend to talk about what are actually long-standing issues on labour policy, citizenship and nationality in the Gulf but since most of the people who talk about these issues are just bored of covering disney/nike/other labor scandals that are part of their fascination and obsession with "globalization", they forget that there is an incredible historical depth and dynamism to the story/ies of migration from the sub-continent to the Gulf. And so we get flat, cosmetic coverage ala the recent stuff from WSJ, the Economist, American academia and whatever else because somebody is looking for 'new' news or a new cause.

Rant over. (As you can see I have major beef with the self-involved, brown left in the US) I'm really glad that this post hasn't elicited the usual horse-shit commentary from fellow diasporans (See Sepia Mutiny's archived posts on the Gulf and my responses that fell on voluntarily deaf ears and literally dumb people)

Gargoyle:: you have no idea how much I appreciate your responses as in 'Yay! There are people that get it!" and would love to agree/disagree/discuss further but its midnight here in the Khaleej and so I'll contribute t'row.

On a separate note, I thought

On a separate note, I thought Husain's Dubai exile was over? I hope it is... poor guy, to live in that crass shithole of a city dominated by overfed, flashy, bleached-hair Sindhis and dumpy white-trash Brits from small-town England loving the pay-scales based on nationality in the Gulf who run around squealing "Ohhh mi goddd I just LOVE this weather!!!" when its 45 fucking degrees celsius with 80 percent humidity outside.

Aigre-Doux, for the sake of

Aigre-Doux, for the sake of my own bp, i try not to think of Sepia Mutiny as representative of South Asians in the US/England. Perhaps I'm just trying to maintain a willful naivety. Btw, what's wrong with talking about globalization?

As you can see I have major

As you can see I have major beef with the self-involved, brown left in the US

why so much rage, baba? inquiring minds want you to write about it :)

Aigre-doux, I agree with most

Aigre-doux, I agree with most of what you've said. The only way I survive Sepia Mutiny is by reading the posts and strictly avoiding looking at the comments. I think perhaps they're all very young?

But I feel a little more lenient about coverage by Western media because the English press of the sub-continent is very quiet about it. I suspect elitism (I've sent letters to editors asking this question but have got no reply.) The vernacular papers apparently take a little more interest and naturally the Kerala press is more vocal than most about body bags that start arriving when high summer hits (when you work for hours in 40-45 degrees C and faint on top of the world's tallest building, you are almost certainly going home in a body bag. Your family, ironically, gets more money for your death than when you were alive).

But then you clearly lived here so you already know all that. I'll shut up now.

Hussain continues to look

Hussain continues to look high for hia inspiration :) but there's a new breed of Lebanese, Pakistani and Indian artists doing a lot of art-for-awareness stuff about migrant labourers. It's all very esoteric.

The returning workers may not

The returning workers may not have felt it at the time, but it was for the good. I’ve seen the extent of the exploitation.

This is curious to me. How is this 'non-deportation' different from other forms of forced migration conducted by states against people too socially powerless to resist it? For example, in the U.S. they have 'voluntary departure' which is basically the same thing, and they also have visa expiration + fear of deportation which yields migration that is slightly more autonomous but nonetheless a choice so severely constrained that it often amounts to coercion.

Another way of looking at this is that economically speaking, it inflicts costs (in lost wages and costs of return if they choose to do so) on people who are already, I'm guessing, so what form of violence are they avoiding that justifies that?

A third question is whether their welfare and personal autonomy are being balanced. Why I'm asking these questions is that you sometimes hear arguments with a similar rings of paternalism coming from advocates for migrants in other places. A friend mentioned something yesterday that made me think of a slightly different variant in anti-trafficking legislation.

At the same time, I know that sometimes the view from outside (mine) is very different from the view from up close (yours) and the two can yield different conclusions even from similar political and social starting points. But I do want to know if that's happening :)

In any case, thanks again for your insights.





Hello everybody, A friend of

Hello everybody,
A friend of minre, journalist will reach on tuesday 2 september in Oman and is thinking about doing a documentary on this issue. The deportation of indian migrant workers in Oman.
If anyone could help, have some contact to meet and interview some of theim i d be please you come in contact with me. 00919958499722 (india number) or just leave a message on this page i ll check everyday. She will only stay a couple of days so it is quite urgent.
Thanks for your cooperation.

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