Bahrain’s illegal expats face setback
Manama, March 13, 2010
Scores of illegal residents have been unable to exploit a chance to leave Bahrain without fear of prosecution because they cannot afford to pay their outstanding fines, said a report.
Expatriates who had overstayed their resident permit or not been able to renew their visas were being urged to approach their embassies for help to return home, said a report in our sister publication, the Gulf Daily News.
However, only those with no pending court cases against them will be allowed to leave.
The 'easy exit strategy' was introduced by the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) and General Directorate for Nationality, Passport and Residence (GDNPR) as part of a national campaign to rid Bahrain of illegal workers.
Expatriates wishing to take up the offer will have to pay a fine depending on how long they have overstayed, but will be allowed to return home without being prosecuted.
It was launched with the co-operation of Labour, Justice and Islamic Affairs, Health, Industry and Commerce and Municipalities and Agriculture Affairs Ministries, as well as the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Bahrain Contractors Society and various embassies.
Around 1,000 illegal residents have already approached the Bangladesh Embassy to leave the country, out of which around 60 cannot afford to pay their fines.
'Until this day, we have forwarded to the LMRA around 1,000 applications of illegal residents who want to avail this opportunity and leave as soon as possible,' said First Secretary Mohammed Ibrahim.
'This is a very good response. The majority of illegal expatriates here are those whose residence permits have expired and could not be renewed for several reasons.
'Such people only need to pay BD10 ($26.50) for every year overstayed.
'But there is a small percentage, say five to six, amongst those who approached us who cannot afford to pay their fine.
'These are people who came to Bahrain on a visit visa and overstayed without getting a residence permit.
'Their fine is calculated at BD40 for each month they overstayed.
'So even a person who has overstayed for two years has to pay BD960, which is a big amount for them.
'When we raised this issue with the LMRA, we were told that such cases would be considered later.
'We've been asked to concentrate on those cases whose residence permits have expired.'
An Indian Embassy official said they will persuade the LMRA to show leniency to people who cannot afford to pay their fines on a case by case basis.
'We have already forwarded the details of 86 people who want to leave the country under the new strategy,' he said.
'The LMRA will get back to us after processing the applications and calculating the fines.This information will be conveyed to the people. If they can afford to pay money for the fine, there will be no issue,” he added.
'But if it is an amount they cannot genuinely afford to pay, we will ask the LMRA for some leniency and try to reduce the amount.'
Meanwhile, a Philippines Embassy official said although they had been bombarded with calls enquiring about the strategy, only one person had applied to leave.
The Pakistan Embassy said that most of their people whose residence permits were not renewed by the sponsors have agreed to pay the fines from their own pockets.
'Around 50 illegal residents have approached us, out of which we have forwarded papers of 18 to the LMRA,' said embassy community welfare attache Rana Mohammed Rafeeq Khan.
'Most of them were forced to be here illegally because their companies did not renew their permits.
'They (illegal residents) are ready to pay the fine themselves and do not want to wait for the sponsors because they are frustrated.
'Sometimes, it is also difficult to find out if the expatriate or sponsor is at fault.
'A few people who overstayed their visit visas and cannot afford the fine will be considered later depending on what the government decides.'
The LMRA came up with the new strategy for people afraid of being put behind bars if they approached the authorities who would be more comfortable dealing with their embassies.
They will fast-track the paperwork of residents whose details were forwarded by diplomatic missions.
The LMRA has a new counter at its Sanabis headquarters specifically for this purpose.
No figures were available on how many illegal workers may be in Bahrain, but last month the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) said there were around 46,000 runaways, amounting to 10 per cent of the workforce.
Nearly 60,000 illegal workers earlier left Bahrain or had their status legalised during a five-month government amnesty for expatriate workers, which ran until January 31, 2008. – TradeArabia News Service