Bahrain’s expats ‘unhappy’ over new visa rules
Manama, March 5, 2012
Bahrain's expatriates have expressed frustration over new visa rules which have caused a crackdown on foreign visitors, leading to many being detained for several hours before being either allowed into the country or sent home on return flights.
It follows an Interior Ministry announcement on February 13, which said people from countries that require Bahrainis to obtain visas before travel would face the same requirement when coming here.
The decision was apparently prompted by foreign activists sneaking into Bahrain on visit visas issued at the airport and then taking part in anti-government protests.
However, there has been no official announcement about when the new visa requirement would come into force.
There have since been several reports of Western expatriates entering the country being held at Bahrain International Airport for several hours.
One British expatriate, whose in-laws arrived in Bahrain over the weekend without a visa, described their one-and-a-half hour wait at the airport before being allowed into the country.
"There were 30 people," he said. "All Europeans were taken to one side and had their passports taken.
"They (immigration officers) just left them and didn't say anything. They didn't give them a seat to sit on and people were getting annoyed. It seems to me that it's completely unco-ordinated."
He said his in-laws were due to return to Bahrain in December to spend Christmas here, but were now unlikely to do so.
"We have told them not to - we will go back to the UK at Christmas instead," he said.
"I'm someone who loves it here in Bahrain, but I don't understand what they are trying to achieve. There was no information. My partner's mum said she wouldn't mind if they were being held for the safety of others or if they explained what was happening. They were just left there."
Another Briton said an elderly friend coming to visit had been forced to wait in a holding area for four hours until she was allowed through immigration.
"She used to live in Bahrain and her passport has visa stamps from her previous stay in the country, but they took it away and made her stand, along with 50 other people, in a waiting room," he said.
"There were around eight flights that landed that night, with one immigration officer in charge of checking passports."
"The worst bit is the inability to say anything to the officers and not wanting to offend them, for fear of being sent back on the next flight.
"She landed at 10.30pm and eventually came through at 2.30am and was rather upset about it, as she didn't understand what was going on."
Another Bahrain resident said her friend flew in for a visit, but was turned away at the airport and sent back to London a few hours later.
"He was coming here on a personal visit last month, waited for about three to four hours but was refused entry and was turned around at the desk," she said.
"He wasn't given any reason for why his application was rejected and about 30 people were sent back on the next flight to London.
"They also weren't allowed to use their mobile phones to contact people waiting for them in arrivals."
Once implemented the new visa rules are understood to affect citizens of the European Union, Australia, Canada, the US, Japan, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, and South Korea.
They could previously obtain visas on arrival at the airport, but will have to apply in their home countries for a visa before travelling to Bahrain.
The British Embassy is advising its citizens to apply for visas online in advance of their trip to avoid delays at passport control in Bahrain.
Immigration officials could not be reached for comment yesterday (March 4). – TradeArabia News Service