HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: Human Rights Watch (HRW), a rights-based organisation, has said that Bahrain — a popular job destination for Nepalis in the Gulf region — is not safe for migrant workers. Hundreds of thousands of mostly South Asian migrant workers in Bahrain face exploitation and abuse, HRW said in its 123-page report ‘For a Better Life: Migrant Worker Abuse in Bahrain and the Government Reform Agenda’.
The initiative taken by the Bahrain government to safeguard migrant workers is not enough. Migrants are suffering from various forms of discrimination and exploitation, it said. The report has suggested, “Bahraini authorities need to implement labour safeguards and redress mechanisms already in place and prosecute abusive employers.”
HRW has shown serious concern regarding domestic workers, as their major concerns — establishing maximum daily and weekly work hours, and weekly days off — were not included in the private sector labour law of 2012. “Domestic workers are excluded from key protections like physical or sexual violence and abuses,” said deputy director Middle East and North Africa Joe Stork. The global rights organisation has questioned the Bahraini government regarding the impunity granted to abusers. “There is no prosecution and enforcement of penalties for employers,” it said.
Bahrain is a popular destination among Nepali migrant workers. About 60,000 Nepalis are believed to be working in the destination and half of them are women working as domestic workers. “Sexual abuse of domestic workers in Bahrain are on the same level of the average of Gulf Cooperation Council. But the workers’ voices have not been heard by the government or the court,” it said.
According to data provided by the ministry, in 2009, 2010, and 2011, mediators resolved only 30 per cent complaints filed by migrant workers, as compared with 56 per cent complaints filed by Bahraini workers. It reveals that migrant workers are not accorded priority in the government regulating agencies. “The sponsorship system, known as Kafala, is a major obstacle to safeguarding migrant workers,” it pointed out.
HRW found no evidence that Bahraini authorities have utilised anti-trafficking legislation, introduced in 2008, to prosecute labour related violations. Similarly, the tiny Gulf nation has not fulfilled its promise to include migrants in the national legal framework.
Bahrain has just over 458,000 migrant workers –– about 77 per cent of the total work force in both public and private sectors. Most are employed in low-skill, low-wage jobs in construction, trade, manufacturing, and domestic work.