Plan to scrap jobs sponsorship praised
Manama, May 10, 2009
Diplomats and human rights activists have welcomed Bahrain government's move to axe the sponsorship system for foreign workers.
They say it would help wipe out the illegal free visa trade and revolutionise the labour market.
The new law is supposed to allow foreign workers to switch jobs without their existing employers' consent and is to comply with international human rights standards.
Migrant Workers Protection Society action committee head Marietta Dias said any move by the government that would make life easier for migrant workers was welcomed.
'It seems like good news on the surface, but there are lots of issues to be tackled,' said the activist.
'Not everything is clear at this initial stage because there are so many problems which can be clarified once the law comes into effect.
'We need to wait and see how the government is going to work it out and have it implemented.'
The Indian Embassy said the new law was expected to address a variety of labour issues.
'We welcome the decision allowing expatriates to change jobs from one employer to another,' said embassy first secretary Ajay Kumar.
'It will help dilute the sponsorship system.
'The new system will give an opportunity to skilled workers to get jobs suiting their qualifications if they are employed to work in jobs requiring less qualification.
'We also need to wait and see how the implementation of this law will wipe out the free visa trade.'
Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society regional and international relations director Faisal Fulad described the move as the 'beginning of the end of the slavery system in the Gulf'.
'The current system, known as kafala, is common in all Gulf countries and has always been criticised by human rights groups for putting workers at their employers' mercy.
'We welcome the decision and it makes us especially proud as Bahrain will be the first in the Gulf to abolish modern slavery.
'The next right thing for the government, embassies and social welfare groups, is to make more than 400,000 expatriates aware of the new system.'
The Shura Council said the business community's worries and concerns were understandable due to Bahrain's small market and the global economic crisis.
'But the sponsors have been eating the sweet cake for so many generations without sharing it.
'It is about time they shared at least the crumbs.
'The sponsors will always have excuses and protest every time the government comes up with any law allowing more rights for workers.
'Every country, except those in the Gulf, allows their expatriate employees to move freely from one company to another. This is what makes a free economy.'
Pakistan Embassy chancery head Mohammed Salim told the GDN that the new law would allow expatriate workers to look for greener pastures, legally.
'We applaud the government's initiative to give workers the opportunity to go for greener pastures and they don't have to break the law in the process.
'The move, we believe, will also mean survival of the fittest so Bahrain companies wishing to have a good workforce will have to pay decent salaries and encourage better competitiveness.
'However it is for the government to clarify false cases filed by employers who are not happy about their staff leaving them to join other companies.
'The government needs to have fool-proof arrangements to see that people who go for better opportunities in the proper way are not put into trouble or blacklisted.
'We need to wait and see if there are any flaws in the new system which will be clear once it begins to be implemented.'
Bangladesh Embassy first secretary Mohammed Ibrahim said with the implementation of the