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Drop seen in Bahrain’s trafficking probe

Manama, June 24, 2013

Bahrain reportedly investigated only seven trafficking cases from the 18 carried out last year, according to the latest US State Department Trafficking in persons (TIP) report.

Bahrain has allegedly made few "discernible efforts" to investigate, prosecute and convict trafficking suspects, the Gulf daily News, our sister publication, quoted the report.

Of the seven, six were sex trafficking cases and one was "forced labour" (prostitution), said the report.

"Four of the cases remained open and were under investigation at the end of the reporting period," said the report.

"The criminal court prosecuted three trafficking offenders, but did not convict any trafficking offenders."
Released by Secretary of State John Kerry, it gives a detailed account of trafficking, slavery and testimonies of victims including forced labour for 188 countries worldwide.

"This report is not about pointing fingers. Rather, it provides a thorough account of a problem that affects all countries," he states in the report.

"When we help countries to prosecute traffickers, we are strengthening the rule of law.

"Only through vigorous victim identification can we ensure that trafficking survivors get the services they need, can participate in legal proceedings and can have their voices heard."

The report places countries onto four tiers, as mandated by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), the American law against human trafficking.

Bahrain remains on the Tier 2 watchlist for the second consecutive year, which means the government made "limited efforts to prosecute and punish perpetrators of forced labour and sex trafficking during the reporting period".

Countries which do not comply with the minimum standards are placed in Tier 3 and subjected to US sanctions on non-humanitarian and non-trade related fields.

Among the other GCC countries, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are placed in Tier 3, while Oman, Qatar and the UAE are in Tier 2.

The report mentions Bahrain "does not" fully comply with the minimum standards for elimination of trafficking. However, it accepts the government is making significant efforts to do so.

The report refers to the case of a Thai trafficking ring operating in Bahrain last August that prompted the government to launch its own investigation. "However, the two Thai victims found in Bahrain were deported," it said.

The report also refers to the 51 suicides among Bahrainis and expatriates (the majority of who were Indians).

"NGOs report that Bangladeshi unskilled workers are in particularly high demand in Bahrain and are considered exploitable since they do not typically protest difficult work conditions or low pay," it said.

The report praises Bahrain for a government-funded shelter that began accepting trafficking victims last year and another NGO-run domestic violence shelter that offered services to 25 suspected trafficking victims.

However, it pointed out there were no provisions or assistance for male trafficking victims.

"The majority of trafficking victims in Bahrain continued to seek shelter at their embassies or at the NGO-operated trafficking shelter, which reported assisting 124 female victims of abuse some of whom were likely trafficking victims," said the report.

It states Bahrain made "minimal progress" to identify victims among vulnerable groups, such as migrant domestic workers, who have left their employers, or women arrested for prostitution. The report says when trafficking victims are arrested they are charged with employment or immigration violations, detained and deported without adequate protection.

However, it praised the new Labour Law for better protecting domestic workers.

Focusing on the confiscation of passports by employers, the report states that "police did not have the authority to arrest the employer for non-compliance".

The report is based on information from US diplomats, domestic agencies government officials, local and international NGOs, journalists and academics. – TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | Human Trafficking | Kerry |

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