Bahrain plans law against passport custody
Manama, June 16, 2013
Bahrain is set to introduce new rules to tackle the problem of employers withholding the passports of foreign workers, said a top government official.
The new system will end the need for employers to keep people's passports, Interior Ministry Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs (NPRA) Under-Secretary Shaikh Rashid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa was quoted as saying in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
Immigration officials want to create a system that benefits both bosses and employees.
It involves ensuring all workers are given contracts that clearly outline their duties to prevent exploitation and stop runaway cases by only allowing them to leave Bahrain when authorised by their company.
"I would first like to highlight to the vibrant business community in Bahrain that this is not new legislation or procedures that will hinder their businesses," Shaikh Rashid said.
"The job contract should basically outline the exact responsibilities of the employee, which should be accepted by him or her. They should read and understand this contract in which the employer can specify their terms and conditions which should respect Bahrain's laws.
“They can bring this job contract agreed by both parties to the NPRA and will enter the details in our system that this employee cannot leave the country without the permission of his employer. There will be no need for the employer to withhold the passport of this worker,” he added.
Shaikh Rashid pledged the government would be "reasonable" when considering what jobs would be covered by the new system.
"For example, a person handling cash, goods, expensive items among others would fit the criteria," he said. "We want to create awareness among employers that there could be a system put in place that will benefit them and their workers."
Shaikh Rashid said the NPRA was ready to introduce a pilot study before it is officially rolled out and could receive applications online.
"There could be a small office set up depending on the volume of applications we receive," he said. "Once the details are entered in our system, this particular employee can leave Bahrain only if it is authorised by his employer."
Shaikh Rashid earlier this month warned employers who withheld passports of foreign workers.
"A passport should be with its holder. Full stop," he told the GDN. "The passport is the property of the respected issuing state and does not belong to anybody else. We need to respect that."
The official said Bahraini businessmen in the 60s and 70s did not have computers or technology to catch workers who stole from their companies so kept their passports as a form of insurance.
"The population has increased globally, so has the businesses," he said. "But it is unfortunate that this habit continues and we have many cases." – TradeArabia News Service