Move to cut power at unfit labour camps in Bahrain raises fears

Muharraq Municipal Council to cut services to buildings that do not comply with housing regulations or Covid-19 rules

  

Fears have been raised that moves to cut water and electricity from unfit labour accommodation may backfire because it will simply transfer the problem from one area to another.

A decision was recently passed by Muharraq Municipal Council to cut services to buildings that do not comply with housing regulations or Covid-19 rules introduced to curtail the spread of the virus.

Council chairman Ghazi Al Murbati, speaking during a virtual town hall event hosted on Instagram Live, hoped the decision would encourage landlords to swiftly make improvements to buildings they own. He announced that the authority had already started shutting down power supplies in Hidd, Arad, Al Dair and Samaheej.

Today, the chairman of the Hidd constituency, Abdulaziz Al Kaabi, told the GDN he was having reservations about the move. “There is one mistake here,” he said, “one mistake; when you cut off the power from the labourer’s home, where is he going to go? He’s going to go to his friend’s accommodation. If there are 20 in one property, there will be 20 moving to the next place.

“They will go from overcrowding one area to overcrowding another and there’s no way to track them. We don’t even know how many there are.

“My suggestion is that power be restored to buildings after the landlords sign a pledge that they will comply with the regulations within 10 days, for example. Once they sign, the power can stay on while they go through the necessary procedures. This is also a more humane action.”

Requirements

The GDN previously reported that the Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Ministry had inspected 420 places of labour accommodation in the governorate. Only three landlords had fulfilled requirements and seven had moved residents, resulting in a mere 10 in total having acted to address issues in the past five years.

The GDN also highlighted that 8,011 expatriate workers staying in cramped labour camps had been provided with new accommodation as part of continued efforts to limit the spread of Covid-19. The initiative was aimed at reducing overcrowding, said Labour and Social Development Minister Jameel Humaidan.

Authorities also pledged a ‘zero tolerance’ approach towards companies and landlords who continue to cram workers into unsafe labour accommodation. MPs want inspections of labour accommodation stepped up following a reported surge in active Covid-19 cases among migrant workers.

The government has set up designated shelters to relocate thousands of workers, as part of contingency plans to reduce overcrowding.

Hundreds of workers have already been relocated to a dedicated shelter at Adhari Park with a capacity to house 500 people.

Officials say migrant workers free of Covid-19 who have been relocated to dedicated government shelters, donated by Bahrainis, would be allowed to move freely and would not face deportation.

ghazi@gdn.com.bh

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