Bahrain’s Council of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday that would require migrants to work for three years with their current sponsor before they can transfer to another sponsor. If enacted, the bill would set workers’ rights back, at a time when other GCC states are implementing reforms to make it easier for migrants to change jobs.
The MPs in favour of the bill argued, incorrectly, that employers spend a lot to recruit and train workers only to see them leave to set up their own businesses without employers’ consent.
One of the proponents of the bill, MP Mamdouh Saleh, said that this proposal would bring about “stability for entrepreneurs.”
On the other hand, some MPs rejected the bill on the grounds that it violates the human rights and freedom of movement of workers, while others highlighted the contradiction of the extension period which exceeds work contracts and permits, which are usually set at 1-2 years.
Currently, migrant workers in Bahrain - excluding domestic workers - can transfer sponsorship without current sponsor consent after completing 1 year of work. Migrant-Right.Org previously reported that the bill is based on faulty information and that very few workers - less than 0.5% - change sponsors without their consent.
The bill will now be referred to the Shura Council for approval. It is unlikely that the government will approve the bill given its recent attempts in cultivating a reputation of being a “leading reformer” in the region. MP Mamdouh Saleh urged the government to shun international pressures and pass the bill into law, claiming “International organisations turn a blind eye to European countries and focus on the Gulf states, this law will protect the rights of Bahraini businessmen”.
Migrant-rights.org again urges the government of Bahrain to reject this bill on the grounds that it hampers migrant workers rights and is based on unsubstantiated information.