Bahrain plans crackdown on illegal workers
Manama, June 6, 2013
A new crackdown has been launched to curb rising numbers of illegal workers in Bahrain, said a top official, adding that 52,000 expatriates are now living in the kingdom without the proper paperwork.
"The number of illegal workers is going up compared with past few years," Ausamah Al Absi, chief executive of the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) was quoted as saying by the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
However, illegal workers are being encouraged to come out of hiding and contact their embassies without fear of prosecution, he added.
"We are doing everything we can to reduce the affect on people and only those who insist on being illegal will be caught, deported and cannot come back again,” Al Absi said.
The top official said the government did not want to resort to "brute force" or "harsh measures" to solve the problem and was keen to give illegal workers a chance to rectify their status.
The LMRA last month announced a 30-member squad would join them in cracking down on illegal foreign workers.
"We know all these workers by their names, photographs and nationalities as their details are registered in our database," said Al Absi.
"These are people who are staying illegally even after their work permits expired or cancelled, did not switch to other jobs during stipulated time, businesses they worked in closed down or even those who were reported absent from work.
"We at the LMRA are trying our best to solve it in a humane way but those who insist to be illegal will be dealt with strictly according to the law. This is going to be our practice across the board without time limit."
Al Absi said he was not a big fan of Bahrain offering another general amnesty for illegal workers, who have overstayed their visas or failed to apply for extensions.
"I do believe that the law is clear to everyone... you can have an amnesty if you have not given people normal avenues to rectify their situation," he said.
"What I am saying is that if someone (illegal worker) comes forward and wants to go home, we will assist on getting his passport from the employer, arrange travel documents with the embassy and purchase an air ticket."
The illegal expatriate worker will later be welcomed back to Bahrain for any subsequent legal employment.
But Al Absi explained that would not be the case for those who fail to come forward. "An illegal worker is someone who is working either without permit or in contrary to the conditions of the permit," he said.
"If he or she works for different employer than stated in the documents despite having a valid work permit is also considered illegal."
Anyone caught moonlighting to earn extra money, for example, car washers will also be classed as illegal workers.
"We have a set of regulations that are not targeted at people or nationalities as even Bahrainis are subjected to this," he said. "You cannot ask a worker to do something either he is not equipped or licensed for."
Al Absi added that by law all workers have a month from the expiry of their work permit to find another job in Bahrain or leave.
He also backed up comments by Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs Under-Secretary Shaikh Rashid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa who recently condemned companies that hold onto the passports of foreign staff. – TradeArabia News Service