Bid to combat ‘maid mafias’

New restrictions on employing foreign domestic workers will be drawn up to combat “mafias” that force women to work as housemaids in Bahrain.The government hopes to regulate number of expatriates coming to Bahrain to work as maids – with an estimated 87,000 already here.

Labour Minister Jameel Humaidan said Bahrain had to draw up new legislation to penalise people who employed runaway housemaids.

He urged parliament yesterday to submit recommendations for the proposed law in writing.

MPs have suggested coming up with new contracts for domestic workers, obliging people who employ runaway maids to pay their return tickets along with other financial punishments, and eliminate human trafficking mafias that force women to travel to Bahrain and work as housemaids.

“We have to come up with punishments for those who employ runaway housemaids because at the moment we don’t have any,” Mr Humaidan said during parliament’s weekly session.

“The maximum punishment is deportation, which sees the sponsor shoulder the airfare cost, and I believe that the current system is unfair because it means the sponsor is punished as he has to pay to bring the housemaid and again to send her back despite running away.

“We have put initial restrictions on employers to ensure their workers are not working as part-time housemaids, cleaners or drivers, but we have to put more restrictions.

“Countries that import manpower to Bahrain or other countries in the world come up with tough conditions like determining work and rest hours, holidays and wages, obliging us in some cases to allow their nationals to do whatever they want during their free time.”

Mr Humaidan added that the increase in recruitment prices was set by the country of origin and not manpower agencies in Bahrain.

“Embassies have assured us that recruitment prices would not go up, but we realised that there is a mafia within the country of origin playing with the rates,” he said.

“We are working to clean the labour market from those cases, which we see as human trafficking, and we are looking for alternate countries other than Africa or Asia, which are also efficient and low in cost.

“A list of alternative countries has been prepared and they include Kazakhstan.”

Parliament financial and economic affairs committee chairman Abdulhaleem Murad claimed mafias from different nationalities have been operating under the radar in Bahrain.

“Those mafias have bags full of cash and wave around $300 and $400 in villages, which have families that force their daughters to accept jobs abroad as maids even if they don’t want to come here,” he said.

“The same mafias have representatives in Bahrain who then help these women run away and find them other jobs.

“In trafficking terms this is called recycling.”

National Independent Bloc president MP Khamis Al Rumaihi added that job contracts should be signed by the Bahraini sponsor, the housemaid, the manpower agency and the Labour Ministry.

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