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Amnesty chance for illegal Bahrain residents

Manama, February 21, 2010

Illegal residents in Bahrain are being given another chance to leave the country without fear of prosecution, officials have announced.

Expatriates who have overstayed their resident permit or not been able to renew their visas are being urged to approach their embassy for help to return home.

However, only those with no pending court cases against them will be allowed to leave.

The 'easy exit strategy' has been introduced by the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) and General Directorate for Nationality, Passport and Residence (GDNPR) as part of a national campaign to rid Bahrain of illegal workers.

It was launched with the co-operation of Labour, Justice and Islamic Affairs, Health, Industry and Commerce and Municipalities and Agriculture Affairs Ministries, as well as the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Bahrain Contractors Society.

The Indian, Iraqi, Pakistani, Egyptian, Jordanian, Palestinian, Syrian, Lebanese Yemeni, Tunisian, Bangladeshi, Filipino, Thai, Turkish, Iranian, German, Japanese and Malaysian embassies are also involved.

Expatriates wishing to take up the offer will have to pay a fine depending on how long they have overstayed, but will be allowed to return home without being prosecuted.

'The LMRA wants us to forward them a list of illegal residents who want to voluntarily leave the country,' an Indian Embassy official told our sister newspaper Gulf Daily News.

'But if there is a court case against them, they can't leave until it's over.

'The LMRA will fast-track the paper work of these residents.

'People should make the best use of this chance because if they are caught they will be arrested and deported.

'The LMRA says that if the people are afraid of being put behind bars if they approach local authorities, they would be more comfortable dealing with their embassies.'

Bangladesh Embassy First Secretary Mohammed Ibrahim revealed the LMRA will open a new counter at its Sanabis headquarters tomorrow specifically to fast-track illegal worker applications.

'We will be sending our representatives to this counter once it starts,' he said.

'Many illegals are scared to approach the authorities directly because they will have to go to the immigration to process their papers.

'They are afraid of being arrested at the immigration.

'But if they approach their embassies with all necessary documents they will not have to go to the immigration.

'The LMRA and immigration authorities will calculate fines for overstaying and once they pay it, there will be no case against them and they will have a valid passport or outpass.'

The scheme was welcomed by the Pakistan Embassy, which urged illegal residents to take advantage of the opportunity.

'This is very good for those who have overstayed for various reasons,' said embassy community welfare attache Rana Mohammed Rafeeq Khan.

'Some could not renew their visas or are runaways.

'This is a chance for such people to return to their own countries without hassle.

'This is not an amnesty and the chance will be available only for a short time and they (illegal residents) should make proper use of this opportunity.'

The Philippines Embassy also urged people not to ignore the chance offered by the government.

No figures were available on how many illegal workers may be there in Bahrain but earlier this month the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) said there were around 46,000 runaways, amounting to 10 per cent of the workforce.

Nearly 60,000 illegal workers earlier left Bahrain or had their status legalised during a five-month government amnesty for expatriate workers, which ran until January 31, 2008.-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | Jobs | labour | Visa | Expatriate workers | Illegal |

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