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Laws to protect migrants urged in Bahrain

Manama, November 29, 2009

Bahrain should introduce tough new laws to prevent the exploitation of migrant workers, according to a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report.

Female domestic helpers are still suffering from multiple forms of abuse including the non-payment of wages, harsh working conditions and run the risk of physical and sexual assault.

Migrant workers are also often made to accept different terms of employment from their pre-departure contracts and forced to sign documents in Arabic once they arrive, said the HIV Vulnerabilities of Migrant Women: from Asia to the Arab States 2009 report.

It focused specifically on the vulnerabilities faced by women from Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka working in Bahrain, Lebanon and the UAE.

Data was collected through a series of meetings, interviews and discussions with key stakeholders, including embassies, government officials, health centre staff and non-government organisations.

The study was undertaken with the UNDP office in Bahrain and the head of Bahrain's National Aids Prevention committee Dr Somaya Al Jowder.

It found migrant workers, especially female domestic workers, will often migrate under unsafe circumstances, unwittingly making themselves the targets of sexual exploitation and violence.

The lack of legal coverage and health and social services therefore tend to make women migrants particularly vulnerable to the HIV and Aids infection, the study added.

Despite this, the report noted that Bahrain still had a relatively low prevalence of HIV and Aids, despite HIV cases rising from 52 in 2002 to 68 in 2007.

It also praised the country's National Strategic Framework on HIV/Aids - a blueprint intended to guide the national response to the deadly infection between 2008 and 2010 - saying there was renewed optimism about it being eliminated from Bahrain.

'To protect women migrants from abuse, the government distributes multi-lingual brochures to incoming migrants containing information on workers' rights and in-country resources,' said the report.

'It also provides a 60-bed shelter offering medical, psychological and legal care for female victims of abuse.

'Training programmes in abuse-sensitisation are run for the police, whose referral is necessary for a migrant to obtain a place in the government shelter.'

However, the report called for a number of measures to be implemented to better protect migrant workers, including the broadening of national labour laws to ensure that domestic workers have rights within their places of work.

The report said the regulatory framework in which recruitment agencies operate should also be tightened, with binding guidelines issued on the way that migrant workers are handled in Bahrain.

It also believes that embassies should organise orientation sessions for new workers, taking care to include existing workers in the process.

Information on local culture, law, hotline numbers and emergency services should be provided during these sessions.

The report added migrant workers who test positive during mandatory pre-employment health checks should receive post-detection counselling and information on organisations and services available in their home countries.-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | labour | Laws | Migrant workers |

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