Bahrain Reduces Flexible Visa Permits by 80% with 3 Months Exemption

2020-05-19 - 9:53 p

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Questions about why tens of thousands of foreign workers are being offered residence remain unanswered. Despite the widespread public pressure to put an end to the problem of the increasing foreign workers in Bahrain, the Labour Market Regulatory Authority offers facilities to convince tens of thousands to stay in the country.

A Bangladeshi newspaper has revealed new figures on the number of migrants whose residency Bahrain seeks to legalize, while the Labour Market Regulatory Authority does not disclose this or other information. 

Over 40,000 undocumented Bangladeshi migrants have been in the process of being legalized in Bahrain under its ongoing general amnesty that began since early this month amid COVID-19 crisis, the newspaper says.

At a time the Coronavirus pandemic is pushing Gulf States to rethink the number of foreign laborers in order to improve the living conditions of citizens and ease the pressure on the health system, Bahrain is heading in the opposite direction.

The government is currently spending on hundreds of thousands of unskilled workers as the country's economic life cycle is being stalled.

The government has turned schools and public facilities into housing for foreign workers to help them achieve social distancing, as they are usually crammed into dozens of houses in the old districts of the capital Manama and its suburbs.

The Government distributes breakfasts to thousands of workers who have nothing to eat. Large traders have stopped paying the salaries of foreign workers, while the government only pays citizens' salaries.

Difficult living conditions are increasingly spreading the emerging disease among foreign workers. Most of the recorded infections in Bahrain were among foreign workers.

Bahrain recorded the first death of a foreign worker on Friday (May 15, 2020).

Bahrain spends tens of millions of dinars to screen foreign workers and isolate them in medical quarantines. The cost of the tests has so far exceeded 33 million dinars (approximately $87 million).

The government sells residence permits to unskilled workers for a total fee of more than 700 dinars per year. Bahrain collects more than 20 million dinars from selling residency permits to more than 25,000.

Bangaldesh labor councilor in Manama Sheikh Mohammed Tauhidul Islam said that 40,000 undocumented Bangladeshis will get their papers legalized.

The LMRA also announced that it has cut fees for the Flexi-Permit by 60-78%. The Flexi Permit now costs 167 Bahraini dinar ($443) for one year and the cost of renewal will be BD 72 ($191). It was earlier BD 427 annual fees and BD 322 for renewal. Flexi-Permit holders will not be charged any monthly fees until the end of June.

These facilities raise question marks. Why does Bahrain offer all these facilities to foreign workers? Does the government want a few million to help the country's troubled finances? Does it want to destroy the labor market? Does it want to create an alternative working block for citizens?

Governments in the region put the interests of their citizens as a priority to theirs, except for the Government of Bahrain which is apparently putting the interests of foreigners at the forefront of its attention.

Arabic Version