The dark world of illegals in Oman Desperate people are smuggled into Oman to work odd jobs in order to feed their families back home

newsimageMuscat: Ahmad Rasheed, a Pakistani national, who entered Oman illegally one year ago, hunts for odd jobs every day. “I risked my life just to put food on the table for my family back home,” Rasheed told Gulf News. Rasheed sold his family land to pay the agent who smuggled him on foot from Pakistan into Iran. From there, him and eight others the took a boat to Oman, but because they were packed like sardines in a dark cabin for three days, they became susceptible to disease. “Two died of malaria on board and their bodies were thrown out to sea.” When he finally arrived in Oman’s Shinas province, Rasheed was greeted by a fellow Pakistani national who hid him and the others in a farm for two weeks before heading to the capital. In Muscat, he began working odd jobs where he would earn anywhere between 60-190 Omani riyals a month. The meager wages, compared to the average Omani monthly income of 450 riyals, are barely enough to survive. “I send 50 riyals back home to my family and the rest I spend on food and rent,” he says. Rasheed pays around 10 riyals a month for a bedspace in a room that he shares with eight other workers. Job opportunities for illegals are hard to come by because of the large volume of illegals competing for jobs—most coming from Pakistan, Iran and Yemen but also from India, Bangladesh, Somalia and Afghanistan. Most of them work in the construction sector for eight riyals per day. Rasheed lives under extreme pressure to find work each day coupled with the fear that he could be arrested and deported anytime. “I regret now coming,” he said, adding that he can’t even afford to eat some days, even though a cheap meal costs only 700 Baiza. Rasheed is planning to stay for another six months and if his situation does not improve he will hand himself over to Omani authorities for deportation. “I don’t think I have any more options. The situation here is very difficult. I pray to Allah to find another job back home,” he said. According to Royal Oman Police (ROP) estimates, two people entered Oman illegally everyday in 2016 which amounts to around 700 illegals a year. Hundreds have been arrested and deported and despite Omani authorities warning companies not to hire the workers, many still do because of how cheap they are willing to work for. “The illegals are not only an economic threat to the country, but also threaten the country’s social fabric,” an ROP official who declined to be named told Gulf News. Many, who find themselves in desperate situations, resort to theft and drug dealing to survive. Oman, because of its proximity to many narcotic producing nations, has become a go-to point to transit the drugs. Authorities also worry about the spread of disease, since illegals are not screened by health authorities. In 2014, authorities began a serious crackdown on illegals, resulting in a 43 per cent drop in their numbers. They intensified security sweeps in industrial areas and farms where the illegals are usually hidden by the smugglers. Also, more people are coming forward to report illegals, which has also helped authorities. Entry points Where the illegals enter the country, depends largely on their nationalities. Most traffickers use the northern and south coast of Batinah governorate. Yemeni and Somali infiltrators enter from the rugged mountains of the Dhofar governorate in the south of Oman. Iranian infiltrators sneak into the country via the Khassab province of the Musandam region, which lies only 50 kilometres from the Strait of Hormuz.