Qatar-bound workers from eight countries stand to benefit significantly as the Ministry of Interior (MoI) has signed a deal with a Singapore-based company to carry out services such as biometric data record, fingerprint, medical checkup and work contract signing through service centres in their home countries.

In its first phase the project is to be implemented in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Philippines and Tunisia - as workers from these countries constitute 80% of the total workforce in Qatar.

The announcement came at a briefing attended yesterday by the General Directorate of Passports Director General Brigadier Mohamed Ahmad al-Ateeq, other officials and representatives of the Singapore-based company.

"The project will be piloted in Sri Lanka within four months by opening a service centre in Colombo, followed by the opening of such centres in the other seven countries," Brigadier al-Ateeq explained.

There will be seven service centres in India (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kochi and Lucknow), four in Pakistan (Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar), three each in Bangladesh (Dhaka, Sylhet and Chittagong) and Indonesia (Jakarta, Semarang, Bandung), two in the Philippines (Manila, Cebu) and one each in Nepal (Kathmandu), Sri Lanka (Colombo) and Tunisia (Tunis).

The list of service centres for Residency Procedures outside Qatar.

While answering a query Brigadier al-Ateeq said if there is more rush at any of the above locations, more centres may be opened there at a later date. Visitors from these countries arriving in Qatar and seeking employment need to undergo the procedures back home before taking up a job.

"The facilities may be extended in future to some more countries if there are large number of job applicants from those destinations," he said.

The senior MoI official said the system would be in place once the mechanism for the visa issuance for a Qatar-bound worker from any of the above destinations starts.

Medical Commission director Dr Ibrahim al-Shaar said their studies have found nearly 3% of those expatriates undergoing mandatory visa procedures are failing in medical tests and the local authorities hope to reduce the numbers of such people to below 1% through tests carried out in their home countries.

In the first phase, such services such as the biometric data record, fingerprint, medical checkup and work contract signing would take place through such centers from their own countries before their departure to Qatar.

While recalling that the MoI had undertaken extensive studies before the decision to outsource such services was taken, Brigadier al-Ateeq said the documentation and signing of contracts in an employment seeker's home country would help the individual to start his or her work with their employers soon after entering Qatar.

"It would also ease the employer to start the procedures for transferring the worker's salary to the bank in the very first month of his work," he said while recalling that the entire project is implemented in co-operation with various ministries and authorities in Qatar, in particular between the MoI and the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs.

The General Directorate of Passports' Recruitment Support Services Department's senior official Captain Abdullah Khalifa al-Mohannadi said the second phase included the authorisation of educational certificates and other documents and services like wage protection of the workers.

Once the procedures are completed in their home country the expatriates need not undergo any further visa procedures on their entry to Qatar. The processes, it was announced would be linked electronically to the departments concerned to avoid mismanagement and could be verified on their arrival. The medical checkup will be approved electronically by the E-governance service.

Also present at the briefing were International Co-operation Department director Major General Abdul Aziz Abdullah al-Ansari, Brigadier Abdullah Salim al-Ali from the Office of the Interior Minister, and Criminal Evidences and Investigation Department director Brigadier Nasser al-Mahmoud.

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