INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Annual Anti-Trafficking in Persons (Tip) Report:

Published: Thu 11 Mar 2004 11:17 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 10 MANAMA 000339
SIPDIS
SENSITIVE
DEPARTMENT FOR G/TIP, G, INL, DRL, PRM, IWI, NEA/ARP
CAIRO FOR STEVE BONDY
LONDON FOR ETHAN GOLDRICH
DEPT PLEASE PASS TO USAID, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE,
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, AND
DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KCRM PHUM KWMN SMIG KFRD ASEC PREF ELAB BA
SUBJECT: ANNUAL ANTI-TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS (TIP) REPORT:
BAHRAIN
REF: SECSTATE 07869
1. (SBU) Post submits this report having received GOB,s
final report on anti-TIP activities for March 2003-2004. The
following is Post,s response to reftel questions.
2. (U) Embassy Manama's input for the March 2004 Trafficking
in Persons report follows. Responses are keyed to reftel
questions. Post POC on trafficking is POLOFF Rebecca Fong,
tel. (973) 1724-2834, fax: (973) 17273-011, E-mail:
FongRA@state.gov.
3. (SBU) TIP Report March 2003-March 2004
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18. Overview of Bahrain's Activities to Eliminate TIP:
--------------------------------------------- -----------
A. Bahrain is a destination country for TIP. There are no
official reports of trafficking within Bahrain's borders.
There are no reliable estimates on the magnitude of the
trafficking problem, but there are approximately 210,000
expatriate workers in Bahrain (out of a total workforce of
approximately 330,000). At present, the most reliable
sources of information are local embassies and the GOB, but
none of these sources follows trafficking closely. For this
reporting period, 50 Filipino housemaids sought refuge at the
Philippine Embassy from abusive employers. The press
reported 20 cases of housemaid abuse, which included 3
suicides and the murder of an employer by her Ethiopian
housemaid. Local NGOs offer anecdotal reports of varying
quality. Even less reliable are reports from international
NGOs (e.g. "The Protection Project"), none of which have
representatives in Bahrain. Those most at risk for
trafficking include male laborers and female domestic
workers. Both men and women are subject to withholding of
documents, alteration of contracts, and non-payment of
salaries. One local embassy official reported that
alteration of contracts for laborers and domestics upon
arrival in Bahrain is "routine" but his analysis seemed to be
based more on anecdotes than on any systematic method of
information collection. Women, particularly those employed
as domestics, are more susceptible to physical abuse,
including instances of rape. All sources Post contacted
agreed that the sex industry in Bahrain is overwhelmingly
voluntary. Post has no information that children are at risk
for trafficking to Bahrain.
B. Given the lack of reliable data, determining the source
countries of trafficking victims is difficult. However,
given the large pools of workers from India, Pakistan, Sri
Lanka, Bangladesh, and the Philippines, these are the most
likely source countries. Other Asian countries, such as
China or Indonesia may also be involved. Some victims may
also come from the states of the former Soviet Union,
Morocco, or Ethiopia.
C. The lack of reliable data makes it difficult to assess
changes of the flow of trafficking to Bahrain. There is some
data on changes in the flow of workers in general, which may
or may not be representative of changes in the flow of
trafficking victims. There is no available information that
indicates that anything has changed since 2002. In terms of
numbers, however, the volume of laborers and domestic workers
from South and Southeast Asia is far greater than workers
from China and the former Soviet Union.
D. Pending official notification of funding approval, IOM
plans to conduct the first professional survey on trafficking
as part of a project that will also train GOB officials and
local NGOs to combat trafficking.
E. The majority of low and unskilled expatriate workers
coming to Bahrain are subject to withholding of documents
(especially passports) by their sponsors. Holding passports
is against the law; however it has become customary practice
to do so. Bahraini sponsorship agreements require that
sponsors take full responsibility for their imported workers,
including medical care and a return ticket to their home
country. In the case of domestic workers, a sponsor may not
import a second person until he can prove that the first one
has left Bahrain. Consequently, sponsors feel compelled to
have control over worker movements, particularly of their
domestic workers. Fearing the consequences of runaway,
injured, or pregnant housemaids, sponsors in some instances
refuse unaccompanied excursions from the household or
compound. Another widespread abuse is the demand by sponsors
for money before returning passports for travel or other
purposes.
The two sectors most vulnerable to trafficking are
construction and domestic work. Up to half of low and
unskilled expatriate workers coming as construction or other
laborers are subject to contract substitution. One embassy
described this practice as "routine," but it is not clear
that this embassy had collected the information necessary to
reach such a categorical conclusion. Workers that have
agreed to certain contract terms before leaving their home
country find that they are presented with different contract
conditions upon arrival. Promised salaries of 140 BD (USD
370) per month often become 70-80 BD (USD 185-212).
Sometimes promised housing is not provided, or the housing
provided is unsanitary. In most cases, workers have little
choice but to accept the new contract/conditions as they have
debts to repay, both to recruiting agents and for
transportation to Bahrain. For construction workers, these
costs can be USD 1200 or more. Contract substitution is
often due to the duplicity of recruiting agents in the home
country. These unscrupulous recruiting agents promise a
worker that he or she will receive a particular contract when
they know that the terms of this contract will be changed
once the worker enters Bahrain. Nevertheless, Bahraini
sponsors are also known to make changes to promised salaries
claiming that workers have misrepresented their
qualifications. Post has no hard evidence to assess which of
these scenarios happens more frequently. Two housemaids
alleged to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights Migrant
Workers Group (MWG) that two recruitment agencies make it a
practice to rape incoming housemaids to break them in, for
employers. The MWG forwarded this information to the GOB in
October 2003 and requested that the agencies be shut down.
The Government has not yet responded to Post,s follow-up on
the closure of the two agencies.
Victims can take their case to Bahrain Labor Court but the
process can be very long (from months to years) and most
victims need their salary to survive and/or support relatives
in their home countries. The MWG is tracking over 200 free
visa cases, some of which have languished in the courts for
more than 2 years. The lawyer representing these foreign
workers refused to provide us details of these cases, citing
attorney-client privilege. Often complainants withdraw their
cases because they cannot continue to rely on the generosity
of charitable NGOs or the MWG to share their personal homes
for months at a time.
J. Expatriate workers have successfully sued Bahraini
sponsors in the Labor Court. The GOB provided Post with
2000-2002 data on foreign worker complaints that were
forwarded to Labor courts for resolution. However, the
Government did not provide any data on prosecutions.
The situation of domestic workers differs from other laborers
as they are usually placed without a formal contract. They
are often promised salaries of 50-60 BD per month or higher
(USD 130-160) but receive only 40 BD (USD 106). This salary
varies, however, depending on the country of origin of the
housemaid: Filipinas are among the best paid (up to 70
BD/month). Indonesians and Sri Lankans, who lack diplomatic
representation in Bahrain are among the lowest (40 BD). At
these salaries, full room and board are normally provided.
Complaints include partial or non-payment of salaries,
extreme hours, lack of freedom to leave the house, verbal or
physical abuse, and in some cases, rape.
The Philippine Embassy has the most active worker protection
program in the Kingdom. The Embassy provides help for
workers to find new employment, assistance to resolve
disputes, and a shelter for abused housemaids. Most
complaints involve delayed or partial payment of salary or
verbal harrassment. Workers from the Philippines who go
through reputable recruiting agents use contracts approved by
both the Philippine Ministry of Labor Overseas Labor Office
(POLO) and the Foreign Ministry, which works with its embassy
in Bahrain to determine fair wages and working conditions.
POLO also provides health care and registers workers to vote
in the Philippine National elections. Workers who go through
these legal channels and have embassy representation
generally face fewer problems. The demand for Filipina
housemaids is such, however, that the Philippines Embassy
estimates that 4000 to 5000 may be in Bahrain without going
through these channels, which makes them more vulnerable to
abuse.
Although Bahraini labor law does not cover domestic workers,
they can approach the Ministry of Labor's Complaint
Department for help in resolving most disputes, and they can
seek legal redress from forced labor under the penal code.
Some local embassies report that government officials are
fair in resolving disputes, but many workers do not know
about the complaint department service, and implementation of
its decisions can be difficult. Due to a general lack of
awareness of workers' rights, employers can easily make
inordinate demands of their employees. The Bangladeshi
Embassy told us it receives few complaints from workers (only
one or two every two or three months) because: a) the men
fear that their sponsors will file false reports about them
of theft or negligence of duty, and b) the women do not know
their rights and it is not in their nature to complain.
Numerous sources report that the sex industry in Bahrain is
almost wholly voluntary. When prodded on the question of
forced or coerced prostitution, most embassies denied that
any of their nationals were involved. Last year, one embassy
said that at least 8 out of 10 of the women from his country
who come to Bahrain to work as prostitutes did so with full
knowledge of what was expected of them. (NOTE: This
estimate appeared to be more of a hunch than a research-based
analysis.) Women who come to perform in bands and dance
groups (often from Belarus, Moldova, and the Ukraine) usually
do just that, and do so in costumes that are far less
revealing than one finds in an average music video. Some may
choose to offer sexual services, but only at their own
discretion. Physical contact between performers and audience
members is strictly forbidden. Violations of these rules led
to the closure of 17 entertainment outlets this reporting
period.
Last year,s TIP report mentioned that Russian women have a
more difficult time obtaining visas to come to Bahrain. For
example, an Embassy officer observed that approximately 170
Russian and Slavic women entered on ,visit visas, to
Bahrain on November 26, 2003. These women were accompanied
by 7-10 transaction agents. The agents have agreements with
Arab agents and some hotels to house the women. Some have
reported that they are locked in their rooms for night work
but are free to go to the shopping malls and walk the
corniche (boardwalk) during the day. Two sources on a Hong
Kong to Bahrain flight noted that in February 2004,
approximately 60 Chinese women arrived in Bahrain to work,
through the Formula One event.
F. N/A--Bahrain is a destination country.
G. There is political will at the highest levels to combat
trafficking. However, it is difficult to measure the amount
of resources the GOB is devoting to combating TIP. In
December 2003 the National Assembly approved the UN
Convention on Transnational Crime and the optional protocols
on the rights of the child and trafficking. On March 10, the
MFA officially notified the Embassy of Bahrain,s accession
to this Convention. The GOB established an inter-ministerial
task force to design a national plan to combat TIP. The
committee is chaired by Shaikh Abdul Aziz bin Mubarak
Al-Khalifa, an Assistant Undersecretary in the Foreign
Ministry and brother of Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign
Minister Shaikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa. According
to Shaikh Abdul Aziz, the Bahraini Embassy in Washington has
also assigned a diplomat to liaise with the State Department
and Congress on TIP matters; we will update the Department
when we learn this person's name.
We do not believe that high-level GOB officials are involved
in TIP and we have no information alleging that that they
are. However, the practice of "sponsoring" workers--and
receiving a substantial fee (up to USD 1200) from the
sponsored worker without providing them a job--occurs
frequently here. This practice is illegal, but some
Bahrainis from influential families may be involved in this
practice of providing "free visas."
A hotline was established in February 2003 for people to
provide information on "free visa" workers (there may be
40,000 to 50,000 of them in Bahrain), but it has not yet been
used as a tool to identify sponsors.
H. We have no reason to believe that GOB authorities condone
or facilitate trafficking. Customs officials act
professionally and we have no reports of their accepting
bribes. Post has uncovered no information about bribes paid
to government officials to facilitate the trafficking of
individuals to Bahrain.
I. The police in Bahrain are adequately funded.
Corruption in government is not an overall problem. Bahrain
is not a low per-capita income country. One limiting factor
has been a lack of Labor Ministry inspectors. Last year the
number of inspectors was increased from 9 to 40. The
Minister of Labor told the Ambassador that the ministry plans
to add 30 more inspectors. There are more than 20 inspectors
for entertainment outlets (the responsibility for this falls
under the Information Ministry's Tourism Affairs Office and
includes hotels, restaurants, and clubs), and at least one
inspector visits each of the 91 licensed entertainment
outlets daily. MOLSA is seeking the authority for its
nspectors to have arrest power. Labor inspections occur 1)
randomly, 2) upon application for a work permit; (3) after an
employee complaint; (4) by request of an employer and (5) to
follow up on a previous site visit.
J. The GOB does not systematically monitor its
anti-trafficking efforts or make available its assessments of
these efforts. The inter-ministerial committee meets
periodically to discuss various government anti-TIP efforts.
K. Prostitution is illegal and the activities of brothels
and pimps are criminalized. Enforcement, however, is
variable.
---------------
19. Prevention
---------------
A. Yes. Bahraini government officials have acknowledged
that trafficking in persons is an international problem that
all countries must address and that must be better understood
locally.
B. The inter-ministerial task force consists of
representatives from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Labor
and Social Affairs, Information, Justice, Interior, and
Cabinet Affairs.
C. A media campaign previously slated for March 2003 was
launched December 9, 2003. The English-speaking press
continues to highlight the conditions faced by some
expatriate workers and featured 20 cases of housemaid abuse.
The Government censors some news that embarrasses the
country. Its allowing publication of worker abuse stories
indicates that the GOB is serious about stopping trafficking.
This does not appear to be a concerted media effort.
The GOB has published a manual on the rights and duties of
expatriate workers in Bahrain that has not yet been given to
local embassies, Bahraini embassies abroad, and manpower
recruitment agencies that do business in Bahrain. In
addition, the GOB has published a simpler brochure that is
intended for distribution directly to expatriate workers. It
is translated into six languages; Urdu, Thai, Singhalese,
Arabic, English, and Tagalog. In 2004, there are plans to
translate the brochure into Bengali.
D. The Bahraini Government promotes women's participation in
economic and political decision-making and continues to make
good strides. Women voted for the first time in a referendum
in February 2001. Bahrain's new constitution guarantees
women full political rights. Young girls and women make up 70
percent and higher of enrollment in educational institutions.
E. The GOB has expressed its willingness to work with the
IOM in conjunction with a Department-funded project (pending
official funding notification). At present, it lacks the
expertise to support an effective prevention campaign.
F. The MFA has met with the Bahrain Centre for Human
Rights, Migrant Workers Group three times in the past 7
months. In January 2004, Salma Bala of the Migrant Workers
Group submitted a list of 200 labor cases that are stuck in
the courts. In February 2004, Shaikh Abdul Aziz reviewed
them on behalf of the inter-ministerial committee and met
with the Chief Prosecutor to push 50 of the critical cases to
resolution and to halt forced repatriation. Post continues
to encourage a more institutionalized arrangement and has
contacted several embassies to probe their interest.
G. The GOB monitors its borders and immigration effectively.
Border officials are competent at recognizing forged
documents, but are not specifically trained to recognize TIP.
Post has no information that any immigration official
attempts to track information related to TIP.
H. The GOB established an inter-ministerial national
taskforce in February 2002 that met periodically this year.
It is the focal point for the GOB's anti-TIP policies. The
GOB does not have a public corruption task force, but, the
elected Council of Representatives does have an Investigative
Committee. That Committee, for example, has highlighted
serious financial mismanagement of the Government,s pension
funds, and may pursue removal of the ministers responsible
for the funds, mismanagement.
I. At present, the GOB does not coordinate its anti-TIP
efforts with multinational or international working groups.
However, the GOB has agreed to work with the IOM if the
Department decides to fund IOM,s project proposal.
J. The GOB has a national plan of action. The Ministries
of Foreign Affairs, Labor, Information, Justice, and Interior
were involved in drafting this plan. NGOs were not consulted
during the drafting of this plan. Parts of the action plan
were not made public. On December 9, Shaikh Abdul Aziz held
a press conference to underscore that the GOB is working to
prevent abuse of migrant workers. He announced that the GOB
will focus on educating families with a media campaign
launched by each directorate, that MOLSA will take a more
active role with overseeing inspections and investigations,
and target date for the first GOB victim assistance shelter
is March 30. Reported in the press on February 24, the
Chairman of Municipality Affairs Committee has agreed to have
the Sitra market organization (Corners Committee) help empty
the souq of visa8 workers.
K. Yes, the inter-ministerial task force.
--------------------------------------------- -----
20. Investigation and Prosecution of Traffickers
--------------------------------------------- -----
A. The Bahraini penal code does not specifically criminalize
trafficking in persons. However, it does explicitly outlaw
forced labor (including unjustifiable withholding of salary)
for the government (Article 198) or for any other kind of
work (Article 302 amended). Forced prostitution through
coercion, threat or deceit (Article 325) is also outlawed.
While these articles provide significant protection for
victims of trafficking, it remains a lengthy process to
achieve redress of grievances in the current court system.
The Head of Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Labor warned us
that the available English translation of the Penal Code is
not as clear as the original Arabic.
Article 198: "A punishment of imprisonment for a period not
exceeding 10 years shall be inflicted upon every civil
servant or officer entrusted with a public service who
employs, by forced labor, workers to work for the Government
or one of the authorities mentioned in Article 107 hereof
(defines civil servant) or unjustifiably withhold all or some
of their wages."
Article 302 amended by Legislative Decree No. 6 of 1993:
"Without prejudice to the provisions of Article 198, a
punishment of imprisonment and a fine, or either penalty,
shall be inflicted upon every person who employs forced labor
to undertake any work or unjustifiably withholds all or some
of their wages."
Law on Immorality and Prostitution (Chapter 3, Bahraini Penal
Code 1976):
Article 325: "1. Every person who forces a male or female
to commit acts of immorality or prostitution by way of
coercion, threat or deceit shall be liable for imprisonment
for a period of no less than 2 years and no more than 7
years. 2. If the victim is less than 18 years of age, the
punishment shall be a prison sentence for a period not less
than 3 years and no more than 10 years."
B. See 18A
C. Law on Rape and Sexual Assault (Chapter 2, Bahraini Penal
Code 1976):
Article 344: "Any person who assaults a female shall be
liable for a prison sentence for a period not exceeding 10
years. A prison sentence shall be the penalty if the victim
is less than 16 years of age."
Article 346: "A prison sentence for a period not exceeding 7
years shall be the punishment for any person who assaults a
person against his will. The punishment shall be a prison
sentence if the victim is less than 7 years of age. The
penalty shall be imprisonment for a term of no more than 10
years if the victim is more than 7 years of age but has not
reached the age of sixteen."
Article 348: "The following shall be aggravating
circumstances in the crimes provided for in the preceding
articles of this chapter: 1. If the perpetrator is one of
the victim's close relatives or those responsible for
bringing him/her up, guardianship or having authority over
him, or one of his servants or working with one of the
aforesaid persons. 2. If the perpetrator is one of the
public servants or officers entrusted with a public service,
clergymen, medical practitioners or their assistants and has
abused his office, position or trust in him. 3. If the
crime is jointly committed by two persons or more who
cooperated in overpowering the victim or took turns in
committing the same act against the victim. 4. If the
victim sustains a venereal disease as a result of committing
the crime. 5. If the victim becomes pregnant or suffers
loss of virginity by reason of the crime."
D. Post has received contradictory information on this
subject. Because "trafficking" is not a legal concept under
Bahraini law, no one has been prosecuted or convicted
specifically for trafficking. The subject of prostitution is
a very sensitive issue in this conservative society and most
of our Bahraini interlocutors are not keen to discuss it.
The other legal cases we are aware of are civil cases in
Labor court and involve disputes over non-payment of salary.
In 2003 MOLSA reported that there were 84 domestic worker
complaints, 46 of which were settled and 38 of which went to
court. Most cases involved nonpayment of salary. MOLSA can
remove a domestic worker from the place of employment and
repatriate the employee at the employer,s expense. There is
one alleged case of forced repatriation by the GOB. Attorney
Fatima Hawaj reported to the press on February 13 that the
General Directorate of Immigration, Passports and Residency
repatriated her client, a Bangladeshi worker involved in a
labor dispute case, against her client,s will and without
her knowledge. The labor courts had no option but to drop
the case. In February, Shaikh Abdul Aziz halted forced
repatriation of 50 Indian workers who were in the middle of
having their free visa cases decided by the Labor courts.
These cases were brought to his attention by BCHR,s Migrant
Worker,s Group.
E. Those implicated in trafficking to Bahrain are manpower
recruitment agencies, local and in source countries, as well
as individual Bahraini sponsors who change labor contracts
upon a worker's arrival. The GOB has established a database
of complaints and actions taken regarding individual cases.
This year, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs tracked
140 recruitment agencies and sixty three (63) have been shut
down for malpractice. In December 2003, the Ministry of
Information Tourism Inspectorate shut down 10 tourism
agencies for violating laws which promote clean tourism.
F. The GOB investigates abuses when it learns of them, but
the Government does not systematically investigate cases of
trafficking and probably lacks the expertise to do so
effectively. Bahraini law allows for covert police
operations, but these techniques are not used to investigate
trafficking.
G. The GOB does not provide any specialized training for
government officials to recognize, investigate, and prosecute
trafficking, and it currently lacks the expertise to do so.
However, we are awaiting formal funding notification from the
Department on an IOM project that will begin training GOB
officials to pursue trafficking cases.
H. Post does not know of any cooperative international
investigations on trafficking involving Bahrain. However,
local embassies report that the GOB government generally
cooperates in investigating reported abuses of workers when
the embassies raise specific complaints with GOB officials.
In January 2004, the Philippine mission brought to the
attention of the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs 37
worker abuse cases that have languished in the labor courts
for at least two years. Several cases are ongoing even
though the complainants have attended over 10 hearings on
their cases. One case dates back six years concerning a
housemaid claiming unpaid salary. She abandoned her legal
case and returned to the Philippines in December 2003.
I. Post has no knowledge of any extradition requests
involving trafficking in Bahrain. The Kingdom of Bahrain is
a party to a number of bilateral extradition treaties and
some multinational arrangements, including the Agreement to
Combat Trans-Arab Organized Crime and the Arab Agreement to
Combat Terrorism. The US and Bahrain do not have a bilateral
extradition treaty.
J. As mentioned in section 23H, government officials
do not directly condone or facilitate trafficking. However,
the government does tolerate the sale of "free visas" by
certain prominent individuals. These individuals import
numerous laborers without verifiable employment. Upon
arrival, these workers (who often mortgage their belongings
to pay up to USD 1200 or more for sponsorship and travel fees
to get to Bahrain) are told to find work elsewhere. In many
cases, the sponsors require monthly or annual fees for
workers to maintain their right to remain in-country. There
may be approximately 40-50,000 of these "free visa workers"
in Bahrain. As they are not working for their original
sponsor, their status is illegal and their rights precarious.
Many such workers must take whatever work they can find. On
December 3, the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs
announced to the press that MOLSA will be clamping down on
free visas and runaway workers. There are no 2003 statistics
available of arrests or prosecution of free visas sponsors.
Reported in the press on February 24, the Chairman of the
Municipality Affairs Committee has agreed to have the Sitra
market organization (Corners Committee) help empty the souq
of visa8 workers.
K. No GOB officials have been prosecuted for involvement in
offenses related to trafficking. Sponsorship rules were
reformed in the summer of 2002 to allow workers to change
sponsors/jobs without a "no objection" letter from their
current sponsor. Theoretically, this allows workers to
remove themselves legally from potentially abusive
situations. However, there are some conditions attached
(e.g., the new employer must reimburse the original sponsor
for any expenses involving the worker's entry into Bahrain),
and it is not clear that many unskilled workers with little
education are aware of this rule change to take advantage of
it.
The GOB established a telephone hotline to collect
information on "free visa" workers, all of whom are, by
definition, working in Bahrain illegally. It is not yet
clear if this information will be used to target sponsors for
prosecution, or workers for deportation. The GOB
established a telephone hotline (17870176) for anyone to
reoprt worker abuse. The GOB announced that it would staff
this hotline 24 hours per day, seven days per week. The
Embassy tested this hotline on 21 occasions. The phone was
answered twice. Those who answered the phone did not appear
to be knowledgeable about or trained in victim abuse
referral. Post notes that MOLSA initially published an
incorrect phone number for the hotline in the newspaper. The
error has been corrected. On December 7, 2003, the GOB
announced plans to upgrade the current hotline to record all
calls. BCHR reported that MOLSA has assigned a new employee,
Nabila Rajab (sister of BCHR,s President) to run the
hotline. She reported that her staff is in dire need of
training. There are no statistics available on the number of
calls or referrals.
L. ILO Convention 182: signed and ratified, Feb. 2001
ILO Convention 29 and 105: signed and ratified.
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the
Child: signed and ratified.
In December 2003, the Parliament approved the UN Convention
against Transnational Organized Crime and two protocols to
prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons,
especially women and children and smuggling of migrants by
land, sea and air. Shaikh Abdul Aziz notified the Embassy of
Bahrain,s accession to this Convention.
------------------------------------------
21. Protection and Assistance to Victims
------------------------------------------
A. The government does not regularly provide assistance to
trafficking victims such as shelter and medical or
psychological services, but may provide temporary shelter
and/or medical services in extreme cases. Generally, such
services are up to the victim's local embassy or NGOs. One
embassy has a facility for women, and local NGOs help some
people on an ad hoc basis. Should these options not be
available, the police are allowed to temporarily house
victims at police stations while a case is being
investigated. Police are not supposed to return victims to
their sponsors if they believe the victims will be harmed;
Post does not know if this prescription is generally
followed. There is no established system for providing legal
or psychological services, but emergency medical treatment is
available to anyone in Bahrain. There are no established
victim care facilities. The GOB issued a public statement in
December that a victim assistance shelter would be completed
by March 31. At the time of this report, no shelter had been
erected. On December 10, BCHR advertised in the press its
plans to establish a victim assistance shelter and opened a
bank account to receive donations. On March 5, BCHR held a 5
kilometer charity run to raise money for its shelter.
The government does provide mediation services at the
Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. The Ministry's
complaint department has a staff of 10 people with the sole
duty to achieve amicable settlements of disputes between
sponsors and employees. The government often allows
temporary residency during disputes (relief from deportation)
and tolerates work for non-sponsors while a worker seeks
settlement or legal redress.
B. The GOB does not provide funding or other support to
foreign or domestic NGOs for services to victims. However,
Post introduced two local human rights NGOs to the MFA and we
have heard through multiple channels that they continue to
meet and are looking for areas of potential cooperation on
matters involving expatriate workers in Bahrain.
C. Cases where workers have been detained, jailed, or fined
for criminal offenses are relatively few. In 2003, the press
cited one case of an abused Ethiopian housemaid that murdered
her employer. She was found guilty and her death sentence
was commuted to life in prison. According to the Ministry of
Labor's Legal Advisor, prison sentences are meted out only
where criminality accompanies a labor dispute, such as murder
or theft. Workers not working for their sponsor are subject
to deportation. Free visa violators are held at the
Immigration Residence while being processed for deportation.
D. In cases where mediation by the Ministry of Labor's
complaint department does not succeed in resolving disputes,
government officials encourage workers to pursue legal
action. The Ministry's Legal Advisor tells us that the
ministry's mediators facilitate contact with lawyers. The
government often tolerates work for non-sponsors during legal
disputes and allows/facilitates change of sponsors under
situations of duress. In 2002, the government introduced new
rules that increase the flexibility of a rigid sponsorship
law that in the past made the task of changing one's
job/sponsor very difficult. However, the requirements for
utilizing these new rules and changing one's job legally are
not well understood, especially by poorly educated laborers
and domestic workers. Sponsors are required to pay for
repatriation of workers, regardless of whether or not the
full contract has been fulfilled. In cases where they
refuse, the cost often falls to local embassies.
E. Protection of victims normally falls to their local
embassy, but GOB officials have told us that a victim in
imminent physical danger would be protected and sheltered by
the police. Due to the lack of known examples, it is not
possible to determine the GOB's actual practice.
F. The GOB does not provide any specialized training for
government officials in recognizing trafficking and assisting
the needs of victims. However, the IOM project-- --will
assist the GOB in providing this sort of training. The
manual and pamphlet explaining workers' rights and
obligations will also help educate Bahrainis on matters
relating to trafficking.
G. N/A. Post has no information that suggests that Bahraini
nationals are victims of trafficking.
H. Local embassies are the biggest source of assistance to
trafficking victims. The Philippine Embassy has the most
developed assistance program, including an on-site shelter
for workers who run away from their sponsors/employers. The
Philippine Overseas Workers Welfare Administration provides
legal assistance, loans, health insurance, voting
registration assistance, counseling, repatriation and
reintegration services. Other embassies also provide
services, but on a more ad hoc basis. In severe cases of
abuse or destitution, they seek placement of victims within
their local national community until repatriation can be
arranged. On February 17, the Indian Embassy announced that
it will start registering Indian guest workers in an effort
to help workers in distress and to reach out to Indian free
visa workers.
I. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Migrant Worker's
Group seeks to address the issue of trafficking and working
conditions for expatriates. Several staff members have told
Post of their experiences in sheltering victims on an ad hoc
basis. Post introduced several members to the GOB's
anti-trafficking task force, and they have met three times
since then to look for ways to cooperate. Shaikh Abdul Aziz
has continued to meet with individual ministries and NGOs.
The IOM project will seek to increase the capacity of local
NGOs to assist victims. The Bahrain Human Rights Society has
members who are interested in the issue, but Post has no
information on any related activities that this organization
engages in. The Indian Charitable Relief Committee (ICRC)
visits a different "work camp" every month, providing medical
check-ups and food to laborers working there. Helping Hands
Charity provides temporary food and shelter to abused
workers.
FORD
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