'Some Bahrain firms seizing worker IDs'
Manama, July 29, 2014
A worrying new trend has emerged of unscrupulous employers confiscating all their workers' identity documents in Bahrain, according to a noted rights activist.
Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS) chairwoman Marietta Dias told our sister publication the Gulf Daily News (GDN) that while they have received many complaints about employers withholding employees' passports in the past, a new problem has cropped up where CPR cards are seized as well.
"If a worker does not have a CPR, he will face trouble getting medical treatment at the hospital or even filing a labour complaint with the concerned bodies," she said.
"This is the national identity document that should be with citizens and residents at all times - but what we are seeing is that employers are not only confiscating the passports of their workers, but also their CPRs."
Dias, who is also a member of the National Committee to Combat Trafficking in Persons, said the problem is especially prevalent among domestic workers, who spend much of their time inside the host household and rarely venture out into the outside world.
"We do not understand the reasons for this withholding of CPRs - which is a new trend we are seeing," she said.
After raising the issue with top officials in the Labour Ministry, Dias said they were "shocked to learn about this new practice."
"I have asked all committee members to start awareness campaigns at different levels to deal with this problem," she said.
Central Population Registry (CPR) or 'smart' cards are the national identification documents for both citizens and residents of Bahrain, and are required to confirm the holder's identity at government ministries, offices and firms.
In August last year, the Interior Ministry issued a statement reminding all residents of Bahrain to carry the cards with them at all times, or face a fine of up to BD300 ($792).
Dias said if a worker does not have his or her CPR card then they cannot file a complaint at the Labour Dispute Resolution Centre at the Labour Ministry in Zayed Town.
The centre last year registered a total of 1,053 complaints from employers and staff related to non-payment of salaries, wage disputes, contract violations and allegations of unfair dismissals.
"We have dealt with cases where traffic accident victims' bodies were lying at the morgue for months because there was no identification documents," said Dias. "Everyone should carry their ID with them at all times as this helps identify them in case of an emergency."
The GDN reported last month on the case of a woman who was killed in a motorcycle accident and was incorrectly identified because she was carrying someone else's CPR card at the time of her death.
The Indonesian woman, who was living illegally in Bahrain, had been using a CPR card that belonged to a Filipina woman for the past year.
An official from the Indian Embassy told the GDN that so far they had come across only a handful of cases where nationals from that country did not have the CPR card.
"We have had a few cases where the worker does not have a copy of his CPR, but these cases do not amount to much," he said. "The embassy continues to urge all its nationals to keep their CPR cards with them."
The official added that during the embassy's open house recently, a number of complaints were received relating to workers who have had travel bans slapped on them because of the non-payment of telephone bills issued on mobile phone contracts that they never applied for.
In these cases the worker's CPR cards had been stolen or misused to register the contracts with telecoms companies.
Pakistan Embassy community welfare attachŽ Maqsood Shah said he had not personally registered a case where a Pakistani national did not have their CPR, but he had dealt with several cases where conmen had stolen the identities of unsuspecting victims using the cards.
"We are the worst hit community in the country because of this problem, with around 100 people affected because of the misuse of CPR cards," he said. "Low income workers are misled by some locals who get their CPRs from them."
The diplomat said that in most cases workers only find out about the fraud when they are stopped at the airport while attempting to leave the country because of a travel ban imposed on them by telecoms firms due to outstanding debts. – TradeArabia News Service