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Food woes for quarantined migrants in Bahrain

On April 25, 2020

In Bahrain, low-income migrant workers who are forcefully quarantined in cramped labour accommodations are left completely reliant on civil society organisations for food and basic necessities.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak in Bahrain, the government has quarantined workers en masse in their accommodations. This included labour accommodations provided by companies (formal labour camps) and informal labour accommodations where (mostly free-visa) workers rent out. spoke to social workers on the ground who confirmed that authorities have provided little or no food for quarantined workers. 

Referring to a building in Manama with more than 350 workers that were quarantined four days ago, a social worker told MR “They called us because the authorities didn’t provide them with food… So we had to coordinate and provide food to the workers.” 

“The government is taking 10-13 workers out of the building every day to test them and they then send them to either quarantine facilities or designated shelters.” 

Workers also complained that garbage and food waste was piling up inside their rooms,  as they are not allowed to step out to dispose of them. No alternative solutions have been provided to them.

Most of these quarantined accommodations are overcrowded and make social distancing impossible, yet workers still are not provided with sufficient personal protection equipment As of today, the overwhelming majority of COVID-19 cases in Bahrain are amongst migrant workers. 

Senior officials at the Ministry of Health have previously acknowledged that the high number of COVID-19 cases among migrant workers is due to overcrowding. Officials have begun to relocate migrants from some informal labour accommodations to repurposed facilities like schools, sports centres and theme parks.

More than 600 informal labour accommodations were found to be “unfit for living”, and officials have warned of action against landlords. 

Bahrain’s Ministry of Labour had issued a circular earlier this month for employers, which obliges them to regularly sterilise worksites and labour camps that they operate, provide a sufficient number of toilets at worksites and accommodation, and reduce the number of workers in a room so that a two-metre social distance can be maintained.

The circular also stipulates that employers must provide separate accommodation for infected workers and that such a facility should have a capacity for at least 10% of the employer’s workforce. However, according to ministry officials, only 15% of registered labour camps have so far responded to the ministry’s circular.