New rules hit travel ban expats in Bahrain
Manama, May 10, 2012
New regulations that prevent hospitals from giving out medicines to non-residents could risk the lives of nearly 4,000 travel ban victims stranded in Bahrain, according to a human rights group.
Expatriates who have been blacklisted in connection with legal battles will no longer be able to receive medical treatment after rules were enforced that prohibits clinics and hospitals from prescribing medical drugs to patients without a valid residence visa, said Faisal Fulad, secretary-general of Gulf European Centre for Human Rights (GECHR).
It was highlighted after a travel ban victim sought urgent medical treatment, but was refused vital pain killers.
"He eventually sought the help of a powerful friend and overcame the situation, but the question is what if these victims do not have powerful friends?" said Fulad.
"We are also looking into the judicial practice of placing a travel ban on a customer who is supposed to be a flight risk and investigating how this is assessed by judges in the court. If it is simply because they are expatriates then this is discrimination."
The expatriates were slapped with the bans for failing to repay personal debts or credit card payments accrued with Bahraini or Bahrain-based financial institutions and creditors.
However, the group is urging international banks to co-operate with customers to clear financial debts, before taking the extreme step.
"This is a serious situation, when immigration refuses the residency of a travel ban victim, they are effectively endangering their lives," said GECHR communication director Carol Melrose.
"We have been assured that there is no law in Bahrain that says a travel ban victim cannot have residency, and therefore we urge immigration to take note of this issue and immediately stop refusing residency to those who have a travel ban."
Fulad is taking the plight of travel ban victims to the United Nations, where he is conducting high-level meetings with officials.
Investigations carried out by the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society also revealed that some expatriates have been unable to renew their residence permits, meaning they were barred from leaving the country and they could not acquire a work visa. – TradeArabia News Service