Human trafficking case 'just tip of the iceberg'
Manama, February 27, 2014
Activists have welcomed news that a company is facing legal action for human trafficking, but say it is just the tip of the iceberg and want Bahraini authorities to follow up with more raids on unscrupulous employers.
The Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) announced it uncovered 40 cases of suspected human trafficking on Monday and action was being taken against an employer who allegedly mistreated his staff and deprived them of their rights, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
He is said to have enslaved workers by subjecting them to fictitious debts and seizing their passports.
However, the Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS) says it was aware of new trafficking cases on a "daily" basis, but little was ever done.
"We can daily bring to light a case of human trafficking to authorities," MWPS chairwoman Marietta Dias told the GDN.
She complained that in many instances where such cases were exposed, investigations by authorities did not lead to prosecutions.
"We are happy to see some action taken by the officials, but we need to see the end results," said Ms Dias, who is also a member of the National Committee to Combat Trafficking in Persons.
She added that while police and departments concerned acknowledged problems existed, victims had to wait too long for court verdicts.
"We have lots of cases where a worker in her country is promised jobs in hospitals, companies or hotels, but when she comes here she works as a housemaid," said Dias, whose society runs a shelter for abused women that housed 115 victims last year.
"In other Gulf countries there have been cases where suspects were found guilty of human trafficking - we need this to happen in Bahrain as well."
Meanwhile, the Bahrain Free Labour Union Federation (BFLUF) backed calls for better treatment of foreign workers.
"Nobody should be treated like a slave in these modern times," said BFLUF international and Arab relations head Ali Al Binali.
"We hire these workers from different countries and pay them salaries that do not match living standards."
Al Binali said many expat workers paid huge amounts of money to secure jobs in Bahrain, but ended up living here illegally when the promised work does not materialise.
The US State Department Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report last year stated Bahrain made few "discernible efforts" to investigate, prosecute and convict trafficking suspects. It stated that the government reportedly investigated only seven trafficking cases - of which six were sex trafficking cases and one was "forced labour".
Bahrain remained on the report's Tier 2 watchlist for the second consecutive year, which meant the government made "limited efforts to prosecute and punish perpetrators of forced labour and sex trafficking during the reporting period".
The report also said Bahrain "does not" fully comply with the minimum standards for elimination of trafficking.
However, at least 17 people stood trial for human trafficking in Bahrain last year.
The accused included five Bangladeshis, six Russians, four Bahrainis and two Thais, while the victims were six Russians, three Thais, two Indonesians and the rest were from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Morocco.
In 2008, Bahrain enacted a comprehensive law prohibiting all forms of human trafficking and imposed strict penalties ranging from three to 15 years' imprisonment. - TradeArabia News Service