New push for maids' rights in Bahrain
Manama, December 21, 2010
Volunteers plan to launch a nationwide initiative to set up a system that monitors job contracts of domestic workers to avoid any exploitation attempts.
It is being spearheaded by Nabeel Rajab, president of the dissolved Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, as the world marks the International Migrants Day.
'Domestic workers in Bahrain are the vulnerable group prone to undignified abuses,' he said.
'They are not covered under Bahrain's labour laws and because of their unrecognised status, it is difficult to regulate their working and living conditions.'
A group of volunteers has prepared a report focusing on female migrant workers, including domestic workers.
The report, entitled Waiting for Reform and Recognition, is a follow-up of their 2008 report on the situation of domestic workers.
Rajab said that 'contract substitution' was a key issue faced by an estimated 70,000 domestic workers in Bahraini households.
'A worker signs a contract in their home country, but they are made to sign a new contract with vague terms upon arrival,' he said.
'In some cases, a housemaid works for extra hours, low salary and other problems which surface because of contract substitution.'
The report states that a model contract prepared by the government mentioning proper terms and conditions could protect domestic workers.
However, it praises the Bahrain authorities for cancelling the sponsorship system for expatriate workers.
The report also backs the Easy Exit Campaign, which allows a migrant worker to leave the country by paying a fine.
The campaign has helped an estimated 43,000 illegal migrant workers in Bahrain, it added.
This is in addition to the mobility law, which allows an employee to switch jobs and change employers.
The report says that 42 housemaids fled from their sponsors in the first five months of this year.
Rajab said that the practice of employers withholding passports was another pressing issue covered in the report.
He said domestic workers were subjected to restrictions on movement due to passports confiscated by their sponsors.
Rajab said the solution was to conduct inspections by authorities and the consular officials concerned.
'The Bahrain government should also ratify key conventions related to migrant workers which would further protect their rights,' he said.
'It should also ensure right to social security and other benefits for all migrant workers.'
The International Migrants Day was marked worldwide on Saturday.-TradeArabia News Service