LMRA launching new visa sweep

AUTHORITIES hope to send home or legalise more than 40,000 “irregular” workers in Bahrain by the end of the year, it emerged yesterday.They have already slashed the number of illegal workers from 48,000 to 43,000 in the past three months.

However, Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) corporate communication manager Waheed Al Balushi said that was just the start.

He also said authorities no longer viewed “free visa” workers or those who overstay their visa as illegal – since many of them could actually be victims of rogue bosses.

“We now use the term irregular workers instead of illegal workers because it puts a criminal label on them,” Mr Al Balushi told the GDN yesterday.

“Not all of these workers are intentionally here illegally, since their employer could have not renewed their visa.

“That’s why we are now going with the term irregular because it is a human rights issue.”

He said the number of “irregular” workers now in Bahrain was dropping thanks to a National Campaign to Treat Irregular Workers, which revolved around a three-pronged approach.

The first and most successful has been an Easy Exit scheme, which allows workers whose visas have expired to pay minimal fines to leave the country.

Under the scheme, expats who overstay their work visas can leave Bahrain after paying a fine of BD15, while those who overstay visit visas can go after paying BD25.

“A lot of irregular workers have been approaching under this scheme and we hope it continues this way,” added Mr Al Balushi.

The second strategy consists of LMRA inspections of company records to identify firms with a history of “irregular” workers.

These are conducted in conjunction with the Health Ministry, Municipalities and Agriculture Ministry, Labour Ministry, Industry and Commerce Ministry and the Interior Ministry, which also carry out their own inspection to ensure firms are following all regulations.

Any expats caught working illegally face deportation, while the company itself will be fined a minimum of BD1,000 for every “irregular” worker.

However, in some cases firms will be allowed to legitimise their workforce by renewing their visas – depending on how long ago they expired.

A third approach involves a crackdown on illegal street workers in collaboration with the Interior Ministry and the Municipalities and Agriculture Ministry.

Any “irregular” worker caught in those sweeps also faces deportation.

“We will continue to use these strategies and follow them with even more seriousness and continuity,” said Mr Al Balushi.

“The above schemes also motivate the employers themselves to be more aggressive in getting rid of irregular workers.”

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