Manila travel ban mystery
Manama, May 22, 2011
Filipino job-seekers are still in the dark about when a government ban on travel to Bahrain will be lifted.
The Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) introduced the restriction in February due to safety concerns amid the height of the unrest.
His Majesty King Hamad has since announced that Bahrain's State of National Safety will be lifted on June 1.
It led the Philippines Embassy to ask Manila for the ban to be cancelled, but a decision has yet to be made.
The restrictions prevent newly-hired Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) from emigrating to Bahrain and do not affect those already employed and people on holiday.
But everyone travelling to Manama has to sign a document stating they are returning to their employers at their own risk.
'The travel ban still stands and perhaps it will be lifted at the end of the month, but we are still waiting for official instructions from Manila,' said an embassy source.
The Saudi-based migrant workers protection group Migrante has also been pushing for the lifting of the ban given that the situation has largely returned to normal.
'We have told the government through the foreign affairs department that we are waiting for the ban to be lifted and are hearing that a decision will be made in accordance with the State of National Safety coming to an end next month,' said its Middle East regional co-ordinator John Monterona.
'As soon as His Majesty calls an end to this, we are expecting the embassy to follow suit immediately so that those OFWs can come to work in Bahrain.'
He said the Philippines government was also discussing changing its travel advice to OFWs, including downgrading of Bahrain's security situation.
Four Asian expatriates have been killed and hundreds injured in attacks by anti-government protesters.
The POEA announced on March 9 that it would resume processing the papers of workers bound for Bahrain.
Following an escalation of violence and attacks on Asians, the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs reintroduced the ban a week later, but limiting it to newly hired workers.
Our sister newspaper Gulf Daily News (GDN) reported on March 29 that a Filipina was injured during attacks on Asians in Manama.
Philippines Ambassador Corazon Yap-Bahjin later revealed anti-government protesters had photographed the injured woman, who was hit by a stone, and posted her pictures on the Internet - falsely claiming she had been assaulted by Saudi troops.-TradeArabia News Service