Filipino ban 'curbs flouting of visa laws'
Manama, May 6, 2012
A ban on Filipino tourists visiting Bahrain has led to a dramatic reduction in the number of people flouting local visa laws, said a Philippines Embassy official.
The restrictions were imposed by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila amid safety concerns during the height of last year's unrest.
But despite the Philippines government lowering its crisis level following the lifting of the State of National Safety last May the ban was never lifted.
'There has been a decline in the number of undocumented workers since last year because of the ban on tourists visiting Bahrain in place and the pre-departure inspections of Filipinos leaving for Bahrain,' the official said.
'In the past, we had to deal with overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who enter Bahrain as tourists and end up as undocumented workers.
'All Filipinos travelling to Bahrain for employment should have their job contract notarised by the embassy, failure of which leads to the traveller being off-loaded.'
The official said the tight screening of Filipinos leaving the country was necessary to prevent human trafficking and illegal recruitment.
However, existing workers returning from holiday, Filipinos with job contracts and parents and children of Filipino residents in Bahrain were still allowed to travel to Bahrain.
The official said diplomats had continuously tried to reassure the government that the situation in Bahrain was safe.
'We continue to communicate with our government and the tourist ban is for non-essential travel,' he said. 'It will only be lifted by our government depending on the situation in the country.'
There are over 45,000 Filipinos living in Bahrain.
The Philippines tightened its emigration rules to Bahrain as a result of the unrest during which anti-government factions attacked Asians - killing four people and injuring dozens more.
In March last year a Filipina woman was injured during attacks on Asians in Manama.
At the time Philippines Ambassador Corazon Yap-Bahjin revealed anti-government protesters photographed the victim, who was hit by a stone, and posted her pictures on the Internet, falsely claiming she had been assaulted by Saudi troops.
A ban on all travel to Bahrain was imposed by the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration in February last year.
It was lifted on July 5, following a recommendation by the embassy that the situation had returned to normal. – TradeArabia News Service