Coordinated efforts by the authorities have resulted in a decrease in the number of illegal expatriate residents in the Kingdom, however the number of illegals still remains high with around 43,000 expats on expired visas still in the country.
Ali Radhi, CEO of the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA), explained to the Bahrain Tribune yesterday that the number of illegal expats has dropped from an initial 48,000 to 43,000 over the past three months.
This was the result of a concerted effort by the members of a National Committee tasked with addressing the problem of illegal labour which put in place a new strategy to deter companies from hiring illegals. In accordance with the new campaign, ministries and large firms are being urged to refrain from dealing with companies that are known to employ such workers.
“Fifty-five companies like Alba and Bapco among others have been formally requested not to sub-contract work to those who have a history of keeping illegal workers,” Waheed Al Belushi, head of LMRA’s Public Relations Department told the Tribune. “These include construction firms, and those providing maintenance services and other activities.”
Eighteen ministries have also been requested to cooperate and have agreed to comply with the committee’s request.
In addition to this, several authorities including the Ministries of Interior, Labour, Commerce and Industry and the LMRA will collectively continue to conduct inspections at worksites and main commercial areas.
“An average of 20 monthly inspections targeting roadside vendors and carwashers is our goal. These will include all the five governorates in the Kingdom,” Al Belushi stated.
In its attempts to tackle the problem of illegal labour, the LMRA has also introduced an Easy Exit Scheme which facilitates the process by which expats on expired visas can leave the Kingdom and be repatriated.
Commenting on the scheme, Al Belushi urged all expatriates living illegally in Bahrain to come forward and avail themselves of this opportunity. “We have done everything to make the procedure to leave easy and effortless for those who are residing here on a expired visa and want to go home to their country. Please approach your own embassies if you are hesitant to come to the LMRA or the immigration authorities.”
Under the new scheme, embassies will process all the paperwork with the concerned authorities on behalf of their nationals and the illegal worker will only be required to face the authorities when submitting his or her fingerprints prior to departure.
The LMRA has warned that while this scheme is open to all, anyone caught and detained during its inspections and raids will be dealt with according to the law and will not then be able to avail of the benefits of the scheme.
Under the new regulations, expatriates who have overstayed their visas will be granted a pardon from any accumulated fines, with a nominal fee of BD25 being levied against those with an expired visit visa, and a BD15 penalty levied against those on expired employment visas.
Ambassadors to be briefed on new amnesty procedures
The ambassadors of several countries will tomorrow be briefed by the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) on the procedural protocol that must be followed when processing the paperwork of expatriates seeking to avail themselves of an amnesty declared by the authorities last week.
The amnesty was announced on May 25 by the LMRA and Ministry of Interior. It is available to those who have overstayed their visit or employment visas and are seeking to leave the Kingdom. It follows and is an extension of the Easy Exit scheme which was initiated in February. The original scheme could only be availed of by those on work visas.
While the amnesty was formally announced last month at a press conference, it was yet to be officially introduced to the foreign missions in the Kingdom and embassy officials contacted by the
Bahrain Tribune said that they had not received any formal notifications about the new proceedures. They added however that the LMRA recently informed them that a meeting would be held with the ambassadors.
Rana Muhammad Rafique Khan, Committee Welfare Attache at the Pakistani Embassy, told the Tribune that although they have not received any official notification, the embassy has already begun accepting amnesty applications for all categories of visas. He added that the mission expects all the necessary information to be provided during the meeting tomorrow.
Commending the Easy Exit scheme and the subsequent pardoning of fines, Khan said that it is now the time for those residing illegally in the Kingdom to leave the country with dignity. “I request all my people to please approach the embassy for any assistance required to avail themselves of the pardon. I also urge them to stop working illegally and follow the law of the land.”
When contacted by the Tribune, the Bangladeshi Embassy said that they are still not accepting any more applications from nationals for the Easy Exit scheme. The Tribune earlier reported that the mission temporarily suspended the accepting of applications after being overwhelmed by the sheer number of nationals trying to leave the Kingdom. Over 1,300 applications were received by the embassy before it closed its Easy Exit counter.
Muhammed Ibrahim, First Secretary at the Bangladesh Embassy, yesterday said that there is a backlog of around 300 amnesty applications from people who had overstayed their visit visas. “Once the backlog is cleared we will resume accepting the applications,” he said.
Ali Radhi, CEO of LMRA, earlier told the Tribune that while there were unexpected delays in the initial stages of the Easy Exit scheme, these had been ironed out and the paperwork is expected to move faster.
e attributed the delays to the time required to calculate fines for the applicants. However, with the amnesty absolving all accumulated fines and applying a standard fine for all applicants the process is expected to be expedited. Those who have overstayed a visit visa will be fined BD25, while those on an expired employment visa are being charged BD15.
Clampdown on illegal workers to be stepped up
The National Committee for tackling the problem of illegal labour in the Kingdom yesterday held its third meeting at the premises of the Labour Market Regulatory Authority where officials discussed efforts by the Kingdom’s various authorities to clamp down on illegal workers through various raids and inspection campaigns.
During the meeting, which was led by Chief Executive of the LMRA Ali Ahmed Radhi, officials were briefed on the work of inspection teams formed in collaboration between the LMRA, the Ministry of Interior, and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.
Over past inspections, the team was able to catch 2,528 foreign labourers who were working without a permit. Many of the labourers had expired work visas, while others were on cancelled visas. 442 of them had been reported as absconding workers.
Legal action is being taken against the illegal workers and they are being transferred to the public prosecution. 23 business owners were also given a warning for hiring a total of 879 foreign workers without the necessary permits.
During yesterday’s meeting, the team stated that it also requested the cooperation of 73 bodies, 18 of which are ministries, in order to tackle this situation.
The inspection teams recently conducted 57 inspection campaigns in various governorates in which they caught 378 illegal foreign workers. 107 of these workers have already been repatriated.
The teams are to step up the number of inspections carried out over the second half of this year and will carry out an average of 20 inspections per month in all governorates.
During yesterday’s meeting, the head of the committee emphasized the importance of the role of media in ensuring the success of this national campaign and called upon all business owners to commit to LMRA’s regulations.