LMRA demands clamp on illegal visa trade
Manama, June 29, 2013
Bahrain Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) has slammed foreign countries for failing to do enough to protect their citizens from falling prey to criminals selling visas to the kingdom on the black market.
Asian countries are the worst offenders and must ensure the documentation of low-income workers is valid before they travel, remarked LMRA chief executive Ausamah Al Absi.
He told the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication, the illegal visas trade continues to flourish with the help of middlemen working outside Bahrain who charge exorbitant fees from low-income workers, who have no clue what they are getting into.
The official said victims then arrive and face the harsh reality of false promises and are easily exploited.
"These foreign workers who mainly come from villages are convinced by the middlemen in their countries of good opportunities to make money and live a good life here," said Al Absi.
He explained the process started in Bahrain with someone who wants to sell a visa and through word of mouth the message is passed to an expatriate.
"This foreign worker will make calls in his country and there will be no less than two or maybe three middlemen who will facilitate the deal," said the official.
"Every middleman charges money, as nothing is free, from this person from the village, who borrows money, sells his land or depends on loan sharks to finalise the deal.
"The deal is done when the worker is in his country and the visa is issued. He gets on the plane.
"The bulk of the financial transactions is done outside Bahrain's border and we deal with the aftermath."
Al Absi said countries of origin should screen their nationals and educate them about their rights and the laws of the state they are travelling to as many unwittingly break the law.
"We need countries to step up pre-departure orientation procedures for their citizens," he said.
"If a foreign worker walks into Bahrain International Airport we cannot tell if he is a legitimate person or one who has paid money for his visa.
"We have done our homework on this supply-chain process and are doing everything administratively possible to stop the exploitation of workers."
Meanwhile, Al Absi urged foreign workers to ensure their details are up to date with the LMRA to prevent future problems.
"We have a system which automatically sends text messages to workers to inform them about any change in their legal status," he said.
"It will also help workers to know their legal status, their sponsors and other details.
"Sometimes they change their phone numbers, if there is any change in their status they will not be informed via SMS or e-mail alerts," he added.-TradeArabia News Service