Qatar MoI announces three-month amnesty for illegal residents

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Qatar’s Ministry of Interior (MoI) has announced a three-month amnesty for illegal residents to leave the country without facing any legal consequences of their overstay.

A first in 12 years and the third ever in Qatar, the grace period comes into force on September 1 and ends on December 1, 2016.

Amnesty after 12 years

The last amnesty was declared in 2004 for three months from March 21 and extended for another month and ended on July 21. About 10,000 expatriates sought amnesty, majority of whom were Nepalese, Indians and Pakistanis.

Foreigners who are residing in the country in violation of the provisions of Law No. 4 of 2009 Regulating the Entry, Exit, Residence and Sponsorship of Expatriates can exit the country without legal consequences, the MoI said on Wednesday through its social media pages.

“Illegal residents should contact the Search and Follow up Department to complete the exit procedures during the grace period,” it said.

Thousands left country during last amnesty

About 6,000 illegal residents had availed the scheme in the first three months between March 21 and June 20 during the last amnesty announced in 2004.

Later, the grace period was extended by one month until July 20, 2004, and more people had reportedly utilised the offer to go back to their home countries. Most of those illegal residents were either Asian or Arab expatriates.

There were some days when 200 or more people approached the authorities for assistance to leave the country. Queues of illegal expatriates were witnessed at the Search and Follow up Department office on Salwa Road during that period.

During the earlier amnesty scheme, the government had allowed those illegal residents who voluntarily surrendered and left the country to return two years after the day they exited the country, media reports say.

When the last amnesty scheme was in force the country’ population was less than 650,000, whereas an all time high of 2.56mn people were reported living in Qatar in April this year.

Law regarding overstay

The law (No. 4 of 2009) states that any expatriate violating its provisions related to the purpose of his entry or residency must leave the country in 90 days. It stipulates imprisonment of up to three years and fines of up to QR50,000 or both for violation.

In case of repeat violation, the punishment will be jail for not less than 15 days or fine of not less than QR20,000.

Most of the people who are overstaying their visa periods in Qatar are reported to be doing odd jobs in the country to make a living, and some of them are said to be able to save small amounts of money to be sent home for the sustenance of their family members.

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As Qatar has announced amnesty after 12 years, thousands of illegal residents are expected to leave the country soon.

– Anjana Saleesh / NRICafe.com

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