Visas cancelled 'hour by hour'
Manama, June 23, 2009
Visas for expatriate workers in Bahrain are being cancelled every hour due to the refusal of employers to pay the controversial BD10 ($26.50) labour fee, it has emerged.
Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) e-services and public relations manager Waheed Al Balushi was unable to say how many had been annulled but confirmed the process was underway.
He said there was no official deadline for companies to make the payments but as soon as three months had lapsed since a firm's last payment, the process of cancelling visas would kick in.
"We do not have just one deadline (for the payment), we have deadlines every day, every hour," said Al Balushi.
"After three months of a company not making the payments, the system automatically takes over and will begin the process of cancelling visas for the company."
The LMRA had previously announced that any company which failed to pay the BD10 monthly charge for each expatriate employee would have all its visas cancelled by May 27, although this was subsequently dropped.
Al Balushi yesterday (June 22) said the cancellation of visas had begun and it was now an ongoing process.
The penalty also applies to businesses which failed to renew expired permits or update its files with the LMRA but Mr Al Balushi was unable to reveal any sort of figure for how many visas had been cancelled.
The labour fee, which was introduced last July, is levied by the LMRA and goes to Tamkeen (formerly the Labour Fund) to support training for Bahrainis and business development. Small and medium-sized business owners are continuing to protest outside the Sanabis offices of the LMRA over the charge, which they claim is destroying their livelihoods.
Despite this though, Al Balushi claims an increasing number of companies are now paying the rates.
"At the start, some of the companies weren't taking the charge seriously but we are just carrying out the instructions of the government," he said.
"More companies are now beginning to pay the fees because they are starting to take us seriously,” Al Balushi concluded. – TradeArabia News Service