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Boxing away Bahrain’s workers
A parliamentary bloc in Bahrain is proposing a law to move expatriate bachelors away from local families.
February 24, 2009 11:55 by Aarti Nagraj
Bahrain’s third largest parliamentary bloc, the Islamic Menbar, is trying to push for a law that will relocate expatriate bachelors away from Bahraini families to demarcated areas, reports Gulf News.
“We have submitted a motion that will eventually result in the construction of special zones in the industrial areas to put an end to the problems suffered by Bahraini families in their neighborhoods because of the presence of expatriate bachelors whose social norms and behavioral attitudes differ vastly from those of the local population,” Ali Ahmad, the chairman of the bloc, said.
The decision will be made with “a desire to alleviate traffic pressure caused by the daily transport of the laborers to and from their work sites, and the need to rescue the bachelors from the dilapidated and unsafe houses where up to 15 people are crammed in one room,” Al Menbar added.
Over 500,000 expatriates live in Bahrain, which some government officials see as a risk to the local culture.
In January last year, the country’s Labor Minister Majid Al Alawi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the huge presence of foreign workers in the Gulf, mostly from the Asian sub-continent, represented “a danger worse than the atomic bomb or an Israeli attack.” He warned of an “Asian tsunami” because “lazy” Gulf Arabs rely on foreign labor to carry out even the simplest tasks.
The controversial remark led to a media uproar; and human rights activists also accused Al Alawi of violating human rights.
He later clarified his statement, saying “Expressing my views regarding the demographic shape of the region does not make me a violator of human rights… I have all respect for all hardworking people in the country and my mission is to protect them and ensure their well-being.”
Bahrain was also hit by several strikes last year, with groups of foreign construction laborers demanding pay increases. The demonstrations were deemed illegal by the government and warned the workers that if the strikes continue, they will be deported. The salary issues, however, were resolved after their employers agreed to their demands.
Earlier this month, human rights workers once again accused the government of allowing construction workers to continue working without respiratory protection during recent sandstorms in the country. The government however said that adequate equipment must be provided by the employers.
This latest proposal points to the growing bridge between the laborers and Bahrainis, because it suggests that expatriate bachelors are unfit to live next to Bahraini families.
If the law is passed, will be country be justified in the way it treats its laborers?