Pardoned by the emir: Expats leave Qatari prisons
The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim al-Thani, has pardoned a group of 50 expats, mostly of Indian and Sri Lankan origin as part of a long-standing tradition in the Gulf region.
The prisoners were convicted on charges from petty financial crimes to theft and drug dealing.
Many of the prisoners given "leniency" have reportedly already completed large parts of their sentences.
After serving their prison time, however, they will not be allowed to stay in the country. The Sri Lankan Embassy in Doha has confirmed that 27 of its citizens are waiting for deportation paperwork to be completed before they can be repatriated.
|We get a list of names and passport numbers every year|
"We get a list of names and passport numbers every year of nationals that are to be released. After that, they are moved from the prisons to Sanaiya awaiting deportation. Currently, the paperwork is being processed," the Sri Lankan Embassy spokesperson told Doha News.
The embassy of the Phillipines added that nine Filipino men and one woman had been granted release, and will be returned to Manila. Around 200,000 Filipinos currently live and work in Qatar, making up 11 percent of the Gulf state's population, according to the World Population Review.
The Filipino Embassy spokesperson told Gulf Times that, while they welcomed the emir's decision, more than 100 Filipinos remain in jail in Qatar.
The Charge d'Affaires at the Indian Embassy in Doha told Doha News that seven Indians had been released during Ramadan in July 2015, and a further 12 were released on National Day in December. According to the Indian External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, there were 96 Indians in Qatari jails as of February 2015.
This is significantly lower than the imprisonment rates of Indians in other Gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia, which holds 1,534 and UAE, 833, at the same time.
Twice a year, as part of Qatar's National Day celebrations and to celebrate Ramadan, the emir traditionally pardons several expats, in order to maintain a healthy relationship with the significant population of foreign workers living in Qatar.
Although the numbers of the released prisoners is significant, it is slightly lower than previous mass clemencies; during Ramadan 2014, 74 foreign nationals were released from Qatari jails.