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Bahrain: Police not Doing Enough to Protect Migrant Workers from Abusive Employers

On October 22, 2009

Employers in Bahrain can hold their foreign workers captive by not returning their passport and allowing them to go home, said the Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS). According to the NGO, when the migrant workers flee their employers, the police doesn't assist them in getting back their passports so they can leave, and instead returns them to their sponsors, Gulf Daily News reported today.

In a press conference held by MWPS yesterday, the cases of two Sri Lankan workers were highlighted. One of them, Yamila Randika, fled her abusive employer to an MWPS shelter after working as a housemaid for 11 months. When the MWPS activists came with her to the police station hoping to retrieve her passport from her employer, Randika was arrested and later returned to her sponsor. After another week of working for her sponsor, Randika ran away again and she is currently staying at an MWPS shelter. However, MWPS are obligated to turn her to the police, and they expect her to be forced to return to her abusive sponsor.

Another worker, Mohammed Siddeek, came to Bahrain to work as a driver, but instead was put in charge of taking care of his employer's five snakes. When he turned to his employment agency to lodge a complaint, he was arrested and later charged with sexually harassing the wife of his sponsor, charges he categorically denies. Later, all charges were dropped and he was set free, however no official record that his case is closed was issued. In response, the Bahraini Interior Ministry said that "MWPS should follow proper channels in dealing with their cases", and that they take seriously allegations of bias treatment of migrant workers by the police.