Dedicated hotlines to help migrant workers in Bahrain will soon be launched in up to five languages. The initiative, spearheaded by the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA), will be up and running by mid-August and will be manned by trained volunteers.
It aims to tackle the increasing demand for speakers proficient in different languages as the existing LMRA hotline, 17506055, only has Arabic and English options.
A trial phase will run after the Eid holidays during which demographic data will be collected to determine the number of languages needed, said LMRA chief executive Ausamah Al Absi.
“The main aim is to put workers at ease, who will find it more comfortable sharing their concerns with someone who speaks their language,” he told the GDN.
“The volunteers who will man these hotlines will be trained, as they are not professionals in the field.
“We are waiting for the embassies to revert to us with the volunteers and we hope to start the training soon after Eid.
“As of now we do not know which languages will be in more demand, neither can we confirm a time slot during which we would be receiving calls.
“In case of the Indian community there are many who speak multiple languages, while with the Filipino community it is just one language.
“We cannot have many volunteers sitting at the LMRA, while three or four receives the major traffic.
“Another option is to have volunteers on a roster with few stationed, while others are on standby – when we receive a call in a language that we cannot handle we could take the information and get one volunteer to call them back from wherever he or she is.
“The training period will be utilised to monitor all these aspects, before we get on with the soft launch.”
Mr Al Absi said the volunteers will be trained to tackle different situations.
“There could be someone in distress trying to reach out, while another could just be seeking assistance and yet another could involve dangers and a volunteer should be prepared to deal with all possible scenarios,” he explained.
He added that a significant number of senior staff at the LMRA will undergo specialised training to deal with trafficking victims.
He confirmed that the LMRA had secured telephone numbers for the dedicated hotlines.
“We will start promoting the numbers as soon as we finalise the training phase through media, social media, embassies, clubs and associations and community leaders,” he added.
Mr Al Absi said all foreign embassies will be involved in the initiative, but the target will be major expatriate communities such as Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Filipinos.
The project was backed by diplomats, who said a central hotline system would benefit low-income migrant workers.
“We are happy that the LMRA accepted this suggestion and we are sure that the trial period will prove a success,” said Pakistan Embassy community welfare attachŽ Maqsood Shah.
“Our community has 70-80 per cent falling in the labourers’ category, who will definitely benefit from the system.”
Indian Embassy first secretary Ram Singh said they were searching for volunteers.
“This is a great move and we were contacted by the LMRA for volunteers and we plan to begin with those who can speak Malayalam and Tamil, apart from Hindi, which is usually spoken by almost all Indians,” he said.
“However, getting volunteers seems to be difficult as they are required to be stationed at the LMRA for four to five hours a day and most of them are working.”
Bangladesh Embassy first secretary Mohammed Mohidul Islam welcomed the move, which he said would put labourers at ease.
“This would, to a great extent, remove the stigma of fear that workers attach with the authority,” he said.
Philippines Embassy vice-consul Ricardo Aragon said the embassy was informed of the hotline system and was waiting for more information.