Calls for clamp on labour illegal camps in Bahrain

Authorities have already taken legal action against 100 landlords in the Capital Governorate for violating labour accommodation guidelines

  
Asian labour workers wearing protective face masks sit as they wait for odd jobs in central market, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Manama, Bahrain, May 7, 2020.

Asian labour workers wearing protective face masks sit as they wait for odd jobs in central market, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Manama, Bahrain, May 7, 2020.

REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

An urgent call has gone out by elected officials to further clamp down on unregistered properties being used as labour accommodation amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

Authorities have already taken legal action against 100 landlords in the Capital Governorate for violating labour accommodation guidelines introduced to halt the spread of the coronavirus, while more than 400 others have been issued final warnings.

However, legislators claimed that authorities have so far addressed registered camps while illegal dilapidated buildings located in densely populated residential areas across the country continue to be overcrowded with migrant workers.

Several MPs said this raises fears that such properties could be sources for the spread of the coronavirus.

Parliament’s services committee chairman Mamdooh Al Saleh said there were hundreds of homes across Bahrain not legally listed as labour accommodation.

“Landlords are not at fault as they rent out a home for labour accommodation to companies or others according to certain spaces,” he claimed.

“It is the job of the second party to ensure distancing, sufficient space and safety guidelines; this is not happening.

“What is being done now in terms of action is for the listed properties, but there are much more that continue being a source of Covid-19 transfer where runaways and illegal workers are living.”

His colleague on the financial and economic affairs committee Ahmed Al Salloom urged the unregistered properties to come forward and legalise their status in order to prevent a further spread of the virus.

“This is a complex situation because many fear prosecution at a later stage, but the rate of infection within camps warrants urgent health action now regardless of what’s next,” said the MP, who is chairman of the committee.

Since the coronavirus outbreak in March, stricter rules for labour camps have been introduced, while the government has also transferred migrant workers to temporary shelters to avoid overcrowding.

Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Minister Essam Khalaf previously said that notifications have been sent to 1,049 labour camps to rectify their situations following inspections of a total of 1,604 facilities.

He added teams from the authorities concerned have notified 65 per cent of those violators and also informed more than 200 owners to fix the violations according to the law.

MP Mohammed Al Sissi, who is the chairman of the foreign affairs, defence and national security committee, also called for long-term solutions to regularise the registered labour camps.

“These solutions are temporary, so when normal life resumes in the country there has to be other solutions for labour accommodation,” he said.

“In each old residential area there are at least 100 homes, half of which are monitored by the police, while the rest remain a mystery even with Covid-19 being a ticking bomb.”

Undocumented migrant workers have been given until the end of the year to avail of an amnesty launched by the Labour Market Regulatory Authority in order to either legalise their status or leave the country without facing penalties.

Labour and Social Development Minister Jameel Humaidan said last week there was a total of 46,123 foreign workers registered under 169,865 non-functioning companies.

MP Khalid Bu Onk said this is a major issue as the whereabouts of these workers were still unknown.

“This issue has to be addressed now, before we overcome Covid-19, because it could be the next source of health and social problems in this country,” he added.

There has been a drastic increase in the number of daily Covid-19 cases registered in Bahrain in the last couple of weeks, from an average of 60 cases a day to around 200.

It comes as commercial and industrial businesses have been allowed to continue operations under strict guidelines, while salons and barbershops will reopen from Wednesday and outdoor cinemas will be set up in the country.

However, sports facilities, gyms, movie theatres, sheesha cafés and educational institutions will remain closed until further notice, while restaurants will continue to be limited to take out and delivery services.

mohammed@gdn.com.bh

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