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Bahrain amnesty for illegal workers begins July 1

MANAMA, June 28, 2015

A six-month general amnesty for workers staying in Bahrain illegally will begin on Wednesday, a report said.

Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) chief executive Ausamah Al Absi announced yesterday that the grace period for undocumented migrant workers will last until December 31, after which a crackdown will begin, reported the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.

“During the amnesty period a worker can either leave the country without paying fines or has the option to find an employer ready to hire him so he can stay in the country,” he said.

“It’s time that we clean up the labour market – and let me make it clear, all bets are off after the amnesty as the law will be applied with full force against illegal workers.”

According to the LMRA database, around 61,000 workers are staying in Bahrain illegally after having either run away from their employers, overstayed their visas, or stayed in the country after the end of their work contract.

“There will be no blacklisting for all those who voluntarily depart the country, which means the possibility of returning at any time regardless of their legal status,” said Al Absi.

Anyone wishing to stay in Bahrain should find a suitable employer and apply for an extension to their stay at the Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs headquarters in Manama.

The worker should then fill in an intention to transfer form and submit it to their new employer, who will upload the documents and apply for a work permit through the LMRA’s online portal.

“An illegal worker does not need the consent of the previous employer to get legal employment during this period,” said Al Absi.

“The old employer cannot stop these workers from taking up new jobs and we will assist companies to hire them in case they require additional work permits.

“For the employers, this is a good opportunity to select the right person with the right skills for the job.”

Those who have court cases against them, including a travel ban for outstanding debts, are not covered by the amnesty.

Al Absi said illegal workers whose passports are withheld by their employers should immediately contact their respective embassies, who will issue emergency certificates that will allow them to leave the country without any penalty being applied.

“We aim to remove as many people as possible from this vulnerable position of being illegal and subject to exploitation and give them the opportunity for a new start without financial or legal costs,” he said.

However, the LMRA official warned of middlemen collecting money from workers and promising to rectify their legal status, as this was often a scam.

“It is illegal to collect money from workers for the services offered by the amnesty either by employers or middlemen,” he said.

“I have cancelled around 8,500 work permits for non-payment of fees and in co-operation with the Industry and Commerce Ministry we have cancelled 9,000 commercial registrations.

“We know which are the real businesses and which are not operational. Do not go to these middlemen or clearing agents and pay money.”

Starting from January there will be a major crackdown on illegal workers who refused to leave during the amnesty, said Al Absi.

“If you want to leave this is the time as there will be no other amnesty later,” he said. “I have to be tough as the law needs to be respected.”

Al Absi will today (June 28) meet diplomats from different countries to brief them on the general amnesty and request that they spread the news among their nationals.

One of the biggest challenges the LMRA faces is workers not keeping their personal details up-to-date so that they can be notified of changes to their status, the official said.

“We have given out 200,000 SIM cards with credit on them to new workers as they arrive in Bahrain, but the SIM retention rate is only around 30 per cent,” he said.

“Workers throw away these SIM cards thinking it is some kind of surveillance method and we cannot contact them to inform about the amnesty or if their work permit has been cancelled.”

Bahrain last held an amnesty for illegal workers in 2010, when around 6,000 left the country. – TradeArabia News Service

Tags: Bahrain | amnesty | LMRA | illegal workers | Labour market |

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