Mother in Bahrain tells of travel ban agony
Manama, March 27, 2014
A single mother says she has been unable to send her 11-year-old son to school for two years because of a travel ban in Bahrain.
Jamie Laforme, 35, originally from London lost her job in 2009 and now owes around BD20,000 ($52,785) in unpaid rent, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
She was taken to court by her landlord in 2010 and has been subject to a travel ban ever since.
A glitch in Bahraini law meant that once a residence visa expired, someone under a travel ban could not get it automatically renewed.
This meant she could not leave the country, but was unable to work to pay off her debts or pay school tuition fees for her son Radi - while her bank account was also frozen.
Since 2011 it has been possible for travel ban victims to obtain residency in certain cases, but campaigners claim that prospective employers are often unwilling to hire someone under a travel ban.
"Some days there would be no food on the table at all if it wasn't for my neighbour who helps us out," said Laforme.
"I have friends paying my rent and family back home who help me when they can, but it is an absolutely terrible situation.
"I am just desperate to move on with my life and go home to my family, but at the moment it is proving impossible to do anything.
"I can't even send my son to school and the travel ban has made it impossible for me to pay off my debts.
"If I did not send my son to school for two years in the UK, I would have been arrested and sent to prison.
"Yet here in Bahrain, even my embassy has told me that they cannot help."
Laforme, who has been visiting Bahrain since 1998, was embroiled in a six-year court battle with her estranged husband - who she says is her son's father - over financial support.
However, the Saudi has claimed the child is not his and the marriage is not legitimate.
She said the couple married in 2002, but vital court papers were not registered properly - leaving question marks over the validity of the marriage.
They split a few years later and Laforme worked as a secretary, a fitness instructor and finally at a lighting company where she was forced to leave in 2009 after it allegedly failed to pay her salary.
She is now trying to obtain Saudi citizenship for her son, get an official divorce and find a way out of her debt so she can return to the UK.
However, her ex-partner has apparently refused a DNA test that would determine whether he was Radi's father.
The Jaffari Sharia Court, where the marriage dispute is being heard, says it has no legal authority to make the father attend hearings or take a DNA test.
"This situation is devastating for both me and my son and I feel that this is going to damage his education and development, mentally and emotionally," she said.
"For 15 years I have lived in Bahrain and I love all aspects of this beautiful country, but I am losing my faith in the country's legal system to protect and care for women and children." - TradeArabia News Service