Bahrain vows to improve expat workers' rights
Manama, December 23, 2010
Bahrain has pledged to make a series of long-term commitments to further improve the rights and conditions of foreign workers.
The move comes on the back of a full report by the United Nations Development Programme as part of Bahrain's Universal Periodic Review project. It includes improvements in the areas of mediation and labour courts, criminal prosecutions and inspections.
'The Foreign Workers and Labour Conditions in Bahrain' report was unveiled earlier by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Nazar Al Baharna as the country marked World Human Rights Day.
It states that the government pledged to put an end to the practice of recruitment agencies charging workers for their services and continue inspections as well as enforce existing laws to protect workers.
On excessive work and forced labour, the government said it was committed to enhancing co-operation with the private sector and promoting the rights of domestic workers through awareness campaigns.
It also intends to strengthen provisions of the new labour law, increase the number of inspections and consider the adoption of the proposed International Labour Organisation's Convention of Domestic Workers.
Over the issue of workers' accommodation, plans are in place to increase inspections, the government pledged.
It plans to implement health and safety measures in collaboration with all relevant ministries and to campaign on labour, health and safety hazards for private homes and labour camps.
The subject of physical, psychological and sexual abuse of foreign workers has received much attention from the government, according to the report.
It pledged to increase general awareness on remedies available and to discuss the possibility of organising induction courses for workers, on their rights and obligations in Bahrain and before they arrive here.
The provision of counselling for victims of abuse has also been discussed with the Health Ministry, as well as the development of a shelter for men who have been abused or trafficked, said the report.
To improve workers' freedom and mobility, the government is looking to initiate an information campaign on the legal implications of withholding or confiscating passports.
It plans to expose and crack down on those employers who exploit the law.
Authorities also promised to expand public information of workers' rights through a national campaign.
This is in addition to increasing the number of qualified translators at the Labour and Justice ministries and to discuss with embassies, lawyers and non-governmental organisations the possibility of providing pro bono legal representation to workers.
The number of general inspections and qualified inspectors, meanwhile, are set to increase by 50 per cent, with the government planning to organise training to improve the quality and outcomes of the inspections.
On mediation and labour court issues, the government pledged to consider and decide on cases promptly, increase the number of translators available and publish annual statistics.
With regard to criminal prosecutions, the government confirmed it will try to ensure speedy and full investigations as well as prosecution where warranted, of labour-related violations of the penal code of anti-trafficking laws.
These extensive commitments follow a number of actions already taken by the government. They include prohibiting any person from supplying workers or establishing employment offices without obtaining a permit from the Labour Market Regulatory Authority.
Another measure is to allow workers to leave a job immediately if wages are not being paid and permit them to change employers under an agreement signed by both parties.
The government also permits the issuing of a temporary travel document for a worker, should his/her passport be confiscated by the employer.-TradeArabia News Service