Bahrain’s Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) has announced an amnesty for irregular migrants from now through December 31, 2020. Irregular migrants will not need to pay any fines to regularise their residency status or leave the country.
The LMRA has also cancelled monthly work permit fees and fees related to issuing and renewing work permits for three months beginning April 1, 2020. The move is intended to help alleviate the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on employers, and facilitate the hiring of irregular and regular workers.
The LMRA also announced that it has cut fees for the Flexi-Permit by 60-78%. The Flexi Permit now costs BD 167 (443 USD) for one year and the cost of renewal will be BD 72 (191 USD). It was earlier BD 427 annual fees and BD 322 for renewal.
Flexi-Permit holders will not be charged any monthly fees until the end of June. The LMRA’s Flexi Permit website has been updated accordingly. This move will be especially beneficial for those who already have the Flexi-Permit but cannot afford renewal fees amidst the current economic downturn and loss of jobs, and for those who wish to regularise their status but cannot find full-time employment.
Applications for the Flexi-Permit will be done remotely but migrants must be present in person to collect the Flexi-Permit and provide biometric details. Irregular workers will not need their passports to apply.
The amnesty and reduction in Flexi-Permit fees is a welcome move that will alleviate some pressure on migrant workers. Still, workers and Flexi-permit holders (who are effectively freelancers) remain acutely vulnerable to the economic impact of COVID-19; the prospect of irregular workers finding new employment during the crisis is bleak, and many Flexi-permit holders are likely to struggle to pay their rent and buy food.
In these critical times, it is especially important that social assistance response includes low-income migrant workers, who will need basic support in the form of food, water, and accommodation.