Bahrain vows action on illegal workers
Manama, January 24, 2013
Bahrain has launched a five-year plan to rid the country of "free visa" workers following reports that the number of illegal workers in the country has reached 50,000, a report said.
Labour Minister Jameel Humaidan also announced plans to set up a shelter to house so-called runaways, the report in the Gulf Daily News, our sister newspaper, said.
Those caught will either be flown home at the expense of their original sponsor or returned to them if they still wanted to do the job they were brought to the country for, he said.
"A shelter is a priority, considering that we are unable to take action against runaways because we have no place to keep them in, especially with a few people already on valid visas, which doesn't constitute an immigration offence," said Humaidan, who is also Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) board chairman.
"Working in another profession other than that stated under the permit is an offence and we have to work with the Interior Ministry to either get them deported or returned to their sponsors."
Humaidan said the number of LMRA labour inspectors would rise from 55 to 75 in the coming months.
"We are checking every outlet, business and facility and our numbers can't cover all, but increasing them will certainly help cover more," he said.
"But that brings us to another problem that needs to be addressed and it is related to work permits that employers are getting."
Humaidan, who was speaking at his monthly majlis at the ministry's complex in Zayed Town, said other measures were also in the pipeline.
"No expatriate worker will be allowed a work permit without need and employers will have to present valid documentation to prove their requirements," he said.
Meanwhile, Humaidan said a new law organising bachelor labour camps was being drawn up to ensure workers live in safer conditions.
"After the incident in which 13 Bangladeshis lost their lives last week in a derelict building in Manama that saw large numbers of workers crammed in 27 rooms, urgent measures are being taken to ensure that labourers are housed in proper accommodations," he said.
"An urgent committee - comprising members from our ministry, and the Interior, Health and Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministries, amongst others - is working on the law that will be presented to the National Assembly soon."
Humaidan said the ministry planned to follow a new strategy in the next two years by which employees will be fed into the market into jobs that matched their credentials.
"Just a few months ago we launched the national vocational standards strategy that covers 125 professions. This will certainly ease the integration of Bahrainis," he said. "Possibly by the end of this year or early next year, the plan would be implemented."
"The biggest challenge is to keep unemployment rates at their lowest and for that we are revising our policies to ensure that we reach our targets for this period.
"We will also prepare further studies that could help us in distant future." - TradeArabia News Service