Workers Legally Entitled To Stay And Work Despite Court Cases

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Sep 1 2008

Sandeep Singh Grewal

Manama, Bahrain-Workers who have filed cases against their employers are legally entitled to stay and work in the country, says a local human rights group.
The Bahrain Human Rights Society is now calling on all the lawyers in the country to open files of all expatriate workers whose employers have filed cases against them as- runaway or absentee workers.

The group claims the workers here are unaware of the human trafficking law implemented in January, which stipulates that workers can stay and work in their country till their cases are resolved.
Abdulla Al Derazi, secretary general of the society said, “ Expats are living in the dark and are afraid of deportation if the authorities know they are declared as runaway by their sponsor.”
Unpaid wages, bad living conditions among other reasons has forced several Indian workers here to choose the option of living in anonymity. Majority of these workers are employed in the booming construction sector of the country- continue to live in shadows.

The activist explained the new Anti- Human trafficking law which states the worker’s right to work and live in the country, despite a court case against him/her.
“So it means the rules are already applied but are not yet implemented.”he said.
Bahrain enacted a comprehensive law prohibiting all forms of human trafficking and imposed stiff penalties ranging from three to 15 years imprisonment. The law has 10 articles which defines human trafficking and cites cases in which the consent of the victim is not acknowledged, degrees of penalties, rights of victims, jurisdiction of the Public Prosecution and the Court.

Subaiyya ,a marble layer by profession who has a case against his sponsor for unpaid wages says , “If I work outside I may be caught as a ‘free visa’ worker and deported. This may affect my case and I will not be able to claim my dues from my sponsor,”the Indian worker said.
Al Derazi urged all lawyers in the country to explain their clients that they are legally allowed to work outside and stay in the country till the court verdict is announced. But the activist said several workers opted for ‘outside the court’ settlement with their sponsors as they were frustrated and broke with the slow court process.
“ These workers cannot afford even the legal fees and staying in the country is another battle, “ the activist said.

Officials from the newly formed Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA), reportedly said they received reports of about 4,000 runaway workers.The government body took over the responsibility of issuing work visas for expats from the Ministry of Labour .

The Indian government has launched a nationwide awareness campaign targeting five major states which reportedly has the largest emigrants. These are- Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Punjab. But workers continue to pay lump sum money to rogue agents or use other means to work in Gulf States to earn a decent living.
Runaway cases are one of the main complaints that are being regularly raised during the monthly open house by the Indian mission here to address the grievances of workers. The Bahrain government has imposed stiff penalties for locals who are involved in trade of selling work permits to the workers.Several government employees have issued Commercial Registration(CR) for running restaurant, mobile phone shop, tailor shop and other small business to sell visas to workers.

Bahrain is the main financial and banking hub in the region with close to 300,000 Indians living and working in the country.
Source- Newstrack India

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East