Project to help workers resularise their status in Bahrain

Project to help workers resularise their status in Bahrain

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A pilot project aimed at helping thousands of undocumented workers in Bahrain regularise their status will be launched in April, according to a senior official.The first-of-its-kind initiative in the Middle East will feature such workers being able to sponsor themselves and work for multiple employers.
The flexible work permit scheme was endorsed by the Cabinet last year and 48,000 permits are expected to be issued over the next two years starting from April, said Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) chief executive Ausama Al Absi.
The permit will allow the holder to be employed daily, hourly or as required by several companies at the same time.
“We will launch the scheme, the first in the Middle East, in April allowing self-employed low skilled workers to work with multiple employers,” said Mr Al Absi.
“This will basically regulate the ‘free visa’ system.
“We will issue 2,000 permits a month as part of the scheme that will run for two years.”
Mr Al Absi was speaking yesterday at an event hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce – Bahrain, at the Diplomat Radisson Blu Hotel and Spa.
The permit-holder will be responsible to pay his fees, including the BD200 work visa fee and the BD144 healthcare fee.
Flexible permit-holders will have to pay BD30 a month compared to the BD10 companies pay to the LMRA for each expatriate worker hired.
Special blue cards bearing a photograph of the worker and mentioning the expiry date will be issued after due process, featuring an interview and other formalities.
Mr Al Absi also said during the six-month general amnesty in 2015, 51,000 workers either regulated their status or returned home without paying penalties or being blacklisted.
Another general amnesty is not on the cards in the immediate future, at least not until after April 2019.
“When we took people out of the market a vacuum was created which was filled by the casual workers.
“More people started working illegally because they made more money.
“We could not fight the market forces, that’s why we came up with the flexible work permit system.”
The scheme is only for workers declared illegal as of and including September 20 last year and does not cover people on visit visas, runaways or criminals.
Another project to be launched by this year-end will allow Bahrainis and non-Bahrainis to apply for domestic worker visas online.
Mr Al Absi, who recently visited India, said an agreement was reached to work towards lifting the mandatory $2,500 bank guarantee certificate to employ Indian housemaids in Bahrain.
“We are working with the Indian government and the Indian Embassy to safeguard the rights of domestic workers and want them to feel comfortable to lift this deposit.”
Mr Al Absi also denied reports that LMRA fees would be increased, following in the footsteps of other government agencies.
“I don’t see any fee changes in 2017 or 2018 because the economic situation does not warrant such changes.”
The LMRA conducted 1.5 million transactions last year from which it collected BD153m in fees and further assisted 700,000 walk-in customers. – sandy@gdn.com.bh

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