Post # 1
Embassies flooded with amnesty cases
Embassies flooded with amnesty cases

Manama: Some foreign embassies in Bahrain have assigned additional staff to work night shifts to process hundreds of travel documents for illegal workers, as part of a six-month general amnesty.

Diplomats at the Bangladeshi and Philippines embassies have been overwhelmed by hundreds of people visiting the missions every day since the amnesty was launched on July 1, which allows illegal expatriate residents to return home without facing penalties.

The amnesty, which will remain in place until December 31, also allows them to legalise their stay with a new employer without being punished for residency offences.

According to the Labour Market Regulatory Authority’s database, there are around 61,000 illegal workers who have either run away from their employers, overstayed their visas, or stayed in the country after the end of their contract.

Over 50 per cent of the illegal workers are Bangladeshis and the embassy in Sehla is working on plans to rope in businessmen to help collect applications from undocumented migrant workers.

“Since the amnesty started last week, we are having a minimum of 100 people visiting the embassy either to leave or stay legally in Bahrain,” Bangladeshi Embassy labour counsellor Mohammed Islam told the GDN.

“Because of the volume of applications we are receiving, the embassy decided to partner with Bangladeshi businessmen to help us collect applications.

“These businessmen own cold stores, restaurants and other shops such as travel agencies. We have so far selected six different locations in Manama, Hamad Town, Muharraq, Jidali, Salmabad and Riffa.”

He said details of the outsourced registration counters will be announced soon, which will charge workers BD2 each.

“The fees collected from the worker is not for the embassy and is an incentive for the owners of those businesses to help us out,” explained Mr Islam.

“All the applications collected will be forwarded to the embassy, where our staff will process them.”

The embassy is also preparing a recruitment database of all illegal workers who wish to remain in Bahrain.

“I would request companies who have withheld passports of their Bangladeshi workers to please return them by visiting the embassy,” added Mr Islam.

The Philippines Embassy in Manama has also been bombarded by illegal workers, mostly housemaids, who want to return home without paying penalties.

“We are working until 11pm issuing travel documents for those who want to leave the country as part of the amnesty,” said a spokesman.

“There is a huge number of our nationals who want to go back including at least four from the embassy shelter for distressed women.”

Meanwhile, around 50 people have contacted the Pakistan Embassy in Hoora in the last week to help them complete the paperwork during the grace period.

“It’s too early for these workers to come forward and we feel they will gradually start visiting the embassy,” said Pakistan Embassy community welfare attaché Maqsood Shah.

The Indonesian Embassy said it has been encouraging its nationals, mostly runaway domestic workers, to benefit from the amnesty.

“Flyers have been distributed and we are visiting Indonesian restaurants to spread the message and so far have received only a few applications from Indonesians who want to return,” a spokesman told the GDN.

Under the amnesty, any illegal resident who leaves voluntarily will be able to return to Bahrain once they had secured legitimate employment, which means there is no fear of being blacklisted.

In addition, those who find a new employer willing to supply them with a visa during the amnesty period will be able to legalise their stay without the consent of their previous employer.

However, those who have court cases against them – including a travel ban for outstanding debts – are not covered by the amnesty.

Bahrain last held an amnesty for illegal residents in 2010, when around 6,000 people left the country.


Quick Reply

You must login to post reply.