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New rules set for housing workers in Bahrain

MANAMA, March 31, 2015

Landlords in Bahrain who risk the lives of expatriate workers by cramming them into cramped and dangerously rundown properties face jail and fines under amended legislation.

The new rules state any property used for labour accommodation would have to provide 40 sq ft of space for each tenant and house no more than eight people in a single room, which should be at least 10 ft in height, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.

Landlords will also have to seek government permission to rent out property as labour accommodation, which will be determined by an inspection.

However, the amendments must first be approved by parliament and the Shura Council before they come into effect.

The Cabinet has also instructed that any change in the law must be preceded by a nationwide awareness campaign, in which landlords would be given an unspecified grace period to comply.

“The new criteria will be implemented for all buildings, homes and facilities used as labour camps or accommodation, with each individual allocated 40 square foot within a particular place - and the maximum being eight people per room,” said Information Affairs Minister Isa Al Hammadi, who is also the official government spokesman.

“It takes into account all safety, security and health aspects as the government works to provide labourers with suitable and acceptable living conditions.

“For now, the criteria will be referred to the National Assembly since it involves punishments that will see first-time offenders jailed for up to three months or fined BD2,000 ($5,264), but if repeated they will be sentenced to between six months and two years in jail and fined BD4,000.”

He explained the new rules would be applied to any property shared by five people or more who did not have a personal relationship, such as family ties.

“Permission will not be granted for property to be leased as labour camps unless it is inspected to ensure guidelines are respected,” added Al Hammadi.

He said that while the government would monitor landlords and labour accommodation, members of the public would be encouraged to report any suspected violations.

“Neighbours should feel free to contact those concerned and immediate action will be taken,” he said.

“The new criteria will not be applied before a nationwide awareness campaign and a grace period in which landlords can correct violations.”

Cabinet secretary-general Dr Yasser bin Essa Al Nasser said all landlords would have to inform the municipality concerned about leases involving labour accommodation within 30 days of signing contracts.

Eligibility

“Rooms eligible for rent should be at least 10 ft high,” he said.

Capital Trustees Board chairman Mohammed Al Khozaae described the move as a step in the right direction, but said he suspected landlords would continue to flout the rules.

“Employers or sponsors these days don't rent old homes,” he said.

“Most prefer apartment buildings, which are cheaper, hold more workers and are difficult to detect.

“There could be eight beds in one room, but those staying in it could be triple the number - alternating sleep hours or sleeping together in a tight space.

“However, whenever there is an inspection it would appear only eight workers are living there, which is manipulating the system.

“It will be difficult for neighbours to determine the numbers or understand the nature of violations.

“Even if they alert authorities, violations could be removed by the time inspectors show up.”

Moreover, the minister affirmed that the government's top priority is the interest of citizens on its policy of redirecting subsidies.

On promoting the upcoming Formula One race, Al Hammadi said all efforts would be taken calling for support and co-operation of the press.

Meanwhile, the minister denied any official statement by the government on a date to submit the budget to the legislative authority.

He also stressed Bahrain's support to the resolutions of the 26th Arab Summit including the formation of a joint Arab military force. - TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | Worker | rule | Landlord |

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