Muscat – Known for its bustling streets, Hamriya now wears a cloak of silence. Once buzzing with animated conversations in every corner most times of the day, the Bangladeshi quarter of Ruwi High Street stands eerily quiet after 6pm. This marked change in the area’s atmosphere is attributed to recent raids targeting illegal workers.
Just weeks ago, Hamriya was alive with activity. People gathered in groups to watch cricket matches or share news from back home. It is a shadow of its former self these days, gripped by an air of desolation following a crackdown on visa violations.
Sharing his experience of this drastic transformation, S Babu, a worker from Bangladesh, said, “The neighbourhood feels abandoned. Those without visas live in constant fear. They don’t step out expecting a raid at any time.”
Rehman M, another worker, said, “The threat of arrest and deportation hangs over us. I’ve ceased my evening activities, preferring the safety of my home.”
This climate of fear extends beyond individuals directly affected, taking a toll on local businesses. Coffee shops and eateries, once brimming with customers and lively discussions, are empty. Groceries, meat and fish sellers, and vegetable vendors have few customers, creating a void in the local economy.
Talat Aziz, a coffee shop owner, lamented the current state of affairs. “Our shop was more than just a coffee shop; it was the centre of community interaction and storytelling. The absence of our regulars has led to significant economic challenges,” he said, highlighting the broader impact of the recent crackdown.