A Labour Ministry official yesterday urged workers to opt for certified labour accommodation so that the authorities can intervene and take necessary action during emergencies. Ministry’s Assistant Undersecretary Dr Mohammed Al Ansari said the ten people who died yesterday in Riffa fire were ‘irregular/illegal workers’ in the Kingdom.
“Their actual employers had reported them as ‘missing’ with the Ministry and the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA).”
Also, the Labour Ministry “cannot intervene as they were living in an accommodation of their choice,” said Dr Al Ansari.
“Thus it leaves the authorities with no chance to get involved in the matter. By law, we have no permission to check private accommodations, which will be a violation of human rights. We cannot blame the employers too if the workers opt for rent allowance,” he added.
The official urged every worker to ensure the basic safety and security installations before moving into an accommodation of their choice. “We respect every worker in the Kingdom as they contribute to nation-building. However, we can help them only if they cooperate with us,” he noted.
Regulating illegal workers tough
It is difficult to monitor the safety of accommodations of illegal workers and this has been the case in yesterday’s unfortunate episode, said LMRA Chief Executive Officer Ausamah Al Absi.
Extending his condolences, Mr Al Absi said the LMRA had achieved radical solutions for the irregular workers’ phenomenon during the previous years and is still working on improving the mechanism in cooperation with the concerned ministries.
“Though LMRA is not the concerned authority in this case, we are aware of the gravity of the situation and will strive to set standards for labour accommodation,” said Mr Al Absi.
“These standards will ensure safety and human dignity of all expatriate workers in the Kingdom, which is our responsibility,” he said. He added that care will be taken to ensure that labour accommodations do not spill over into residential areas.
Law needed to help workers
Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) member Sameeh bin Rajab called for a law to ensure that every employee is provided accommodation by the employer.
This should be made applicable across the board and to all levels of employees so that proper inspection and accountability can be ensured, said Mr Rajab.
Even when an allowance is given to employees, there should be a provision for the company/ employer to scrutinise the choice of accommodation of their employees, which will be of benefit to both the parties, he said.
He also called upon the ministries of Labour, Health, Municipalities and Urban Development and Interior to tighten laws and regulations on various aspects of the issue.
“The Municipalities Ministry can limit the issuance of permits for electricity and water for accommodations which do not match the set requirement,” he said.