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Jail for employers hiring runaways in Bahrain

Manama, June 17, 2013

People who employ runaway housemaids in Bahrain could be jailed for six months and fined up to BD1,000 ($2,590), warned a top prosecution official.

Hundreds of domestic workers, who flee from their Bahraini sponsors and are illegally employed in other households, could also face six months behind bars, Chief Prosecutor Hassan Hameed Al Sairafi was quoted as saying in the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.

Officials have already registered 147 complaints related to maids since January - with the majority being runaways along with theft and prostitution cases.

It comes as numbers of runaways are expected to increase next month with rights activists urging employers not to exploit domestic workers during Ramadan as they are overworked to prepare lavish meals.

"Those who employ a runaway housemaid would face up to six months in jail and up to BD1,000 fine," he said.

He was speaking during an interview with the Interior Ministry's Al Amn Radio Show that focused on domestic workers.

Al Sairafi said people who employ these workers often think they can get away with committing a crime.

"They think that the laws are not implemented, but they are mistaken as there is a specialised prosecutor dealing with runaway cases among domestic workers," he added.

He said the majority of the labour cases they received were related to domestic workers, who were reported absent from work without permission from their sponsors.

"A domestic worker who runs away from his or her employer could face six months in jail," he said.

"Prosecutors on a regular basis deal with housemaid cases related to theft, abuse and other crimes. In such cases, Bahrainis should report these criminal incidents related to the domestic worker at their nearest police station."

Also speaking during the interview was Nabi Saleh Police Station inspection and search head Captain Sultan Al Ghanim, who said 147 cases related to housemaids have been registered since the start of the year.

He said majority of them were runaway cases, while others included theft and physical abuse by employers which forced domestic workers to flee and take part in illegal activities such as prostitution.

Labour Ministry Under-Secretary Sabah Al Dossary told the GDN yesterday that maids often run away due to false promises by employers.

However, he said under the new Labour Law domestic workers were guaranteed the right to weekly days off along with receiving salaries on time.

"It is illegal for a runaway housemaid to work anywhere else except his or her employer," he said. "They are promised better jobs by some people and when they come here it is all false and decide to escape from the sponsor's house."

Last year the ministry issued 33,409 permits for maids and 5,150 for male domestic helpers. A total of 1,674 runaway maids were reported.

Meanwhile, the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society yesterday launched its Insaaf campaign - no to exploitation of workers in Ramadan.

Society secretary-general Faisal Fulad said there were about 75,000 domestic workers in Bahrain.

He said it was important to treat them fairly, especially during the holy month, instead of exploiting them by making them work extra hours without weekends off or additional pay.

"They should be paid overtime for working late hours during Ramadan as they help families prepare meals throughout the month," he said. "They should also have enough time to rest to stay fit." – TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | Employment | Sponsor | runaway | Housemaid | maid |

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