Stranded expat desperate to see dying father
Manama, November 17, 2013
By Frances Leate
A British man who has been trapped in Bahrain by a travel ban for the past five years is desperate to return home to see his dying father, said a report.
The 49-year-old, who asked not to be named for fear of jeopardising job opportunities, said he had been collecting tin cans from streets and beaches for money since the ban was imposed in 2008 because of a BD6,000 debt with American Express, said the report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
The former senior project manager from Birmingham, who has spent time in hospital for stress and anxiety, is now living hand to mouth with fishermen in Muharraq.
He moved to Bahrain in 2004 to work on the Bahrain World Trade Centre, before going to work on a project in Amwaj Islands.
His employer went bankrupt and he found another job with Davis Langdon in 2008, but the firm was unable to transfer his work visa because of the BD6,000 debt.
"From that moment it meant I couldn't transfer my work visa to my new employer, I lost my residency, my bank accounts were cancelled, my landlord and car hire company were informed and not only was I left stranded in Bahrain with nowhere to live, no rights and no money, but I was also unable to work my way out of the debt as without a work visa my employers were forced to let me go," he said.
In the last five years he claims to have been offered more than 50 jobs in the GCC, but was unable to accept any of them due to the travel ban.
However, he has managed to secure a Bahrain residence permit on the basis of being retired.
During this time he has sought help from the British Embassy and took action through the Bahrain legal system, but to no avail.
"Now I rely on my Indian friends to let me share their food and I collect cans for recycling for a few dinars a day," he told the GDN.
"I sometimes find myself just wandering around the malls, with nowhere to go and nothing to do.
"My mother passed away while I was here and four weeks ago my father was admitted to hospital after suffering a heart attack and stroke.
"I just want to go back to the UK, be with my father before he dies and start my life again.
"I want to repay the debt, but unless I am allowed to take employment I can't."
In May 2011, a spokesman for the General Directorate of Nationality, Passports and Residence announced the law had been changed to enable people trapped in Bahrain by travel bans to find employment in order to pay off their debt.
However, the former senior project manager, who is divorced, claimed this was only done in exceptional circumstances and the employment had to be based in Bahrain.
An official told the GDN that since March, the directorate had helped provide work visas to 129 people with travel bans. "There is little we can do because the ban is a court order and it needs to be resolved in the courts," he added.
The British Embassy said it was aware of this case, but added there was little it could do to help.
"The British Embassy is aware of this man's case and we have a lot of sympathy for the situation that he finds himself in," said a spokesman.
"We have liaised with the Bahraini authorities about his and other similar cases, but ultimately this is a matter for the Bahraini authorities and the courts to resolve."
Meanwhile, Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society secretary-general Faisal Fulad called on authorities to end the practice of imposing travel bans.
"We have followed these cases with great concern," he said. "In line with the Geneva Convention, we are calling on Bahrain to settle this matter as soon as possible.
"It is a breach of the individual's human rights to be denied access to his home and family and we must remember that there are often other family members, including children, suffering as a result of this.
"Travel ban victims are stranded here without access to healthcare, basic housing, a car or any way of making money to survive and pay off their debts and over the years we have seen a number of suicides resulting from this."
Fulad said it had been revealed in parliament that there were currently more than 700 people living in Bahrain under travel bans.
Last year, the GDN reported that a Briton and an American allegedly staged a hunger strike because they were stranded in Bahrain due to travel bans. - TradeArabia News Service