128 trafficking cases last year |
Gulf Daily News - 22 June, 2012
Nearly 130 cases of human trafficking were recorded in Bahrain last year.
The US State Department Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report said around 70,000 domestic workers in Bahrain were also considered to be "highly vulnerable" to forced labour and sexual exploitation because they were not protected by the country's labour laws.
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Bahrain reported 128 victims of human trafficking, some of whom were referred by the government, according to the publication, which was released yesterday.
"Abuse and sexual assault of domestic workers are significant problems in Bahrain, however, strict confinement to the household and intimidation by employers prevent these workers from reporting abuse," said the report, quoting government and NGO officials.
The government reportedly investigated 18 cases, five of which resulted in the conviction of those found guilty.
The TIP report, released by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, gives a detailed account of trafficking, slavery and the testimonies of victims, including forced labour, for 186 countries.
Bahrain was placed on the Tier 2 watch list, the same ranking it had last year, for countries where the absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking was significant or increasing and there was failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year.
The report stated Bahrain "does not" fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, however, it is making significant efforts to do so.
"The government continued to investigate and prosecute a few trafficking offences during the reporting period," the report said.
Among the other GCC countries, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were placed in Tier 3 - for nations which do not comply with the minimum standards - while Oman, Qatar and the UAE were also in Tier 2.
The report is prepared by US diplomatic posts and domestic agencies and is based on meetings a wide variety of government officials, local and international NGOs, journalists and academics.
"NGOs report that Bangladeshi unskilled workers are in particularly high demand in Bahrain and are considered exploitable since they do not typically protest difficult work conditions or low pay," it said.
Quoting a Labour Market Regulatory Authority study, the report said 65 per cent of migrant workers had not seen their employment contract and 89pc were unaware of their employment terms upon arrival in Bahrain.
It also stated 70pc of foreign workers borrowed money or sold property in their home countries to secure a job in Bahrain.
The TIP report praised the Interior Ministry for operating a freephone hotline for trafficking victims, but noted a significant drop in the number of calls it received in 2011.
However, it criticised the government for failing to follow up and ensure prosecution of people involved in human trafficking and those guilty of negligence in incidents involving injury or death of expatriates.
"It is not known how many of these convictions, if any, involved human trafficking offences," it said.
"The media reported possibly negligent deaths of foreign workers in labour camps due to carbon monoxide poisoning and electrical fires; it is unclear whether the government investigated these deaths."
The report recommends Bahrain enforce the 2008 anti-trafficking law and significantly increase investigation and prosecution of trafficking offences - particularly those involving forced labour.
It also urged authorities to expand the government-run shelter to have qualified staff who are able to communicate in different languages.
Bahrain has also been asked to identify victims among vulnerable groups, such as migrant domestic workers who have left their employers or women arrested for prostitution.
"Bahrain is a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking," said the report.
"Men and women from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Ethiopia, and Eritrea migrate voluntarily to Bahrain to work as domestic workers or as unskilled labourers in the construction and service industries," the report added.