LMRA: 20,000 New Flexible Work Permits despite Coronavirus

2020-05-04 - 7:32 am

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): The Coronavirus epidemic has pushed the issue of foreign labor in the Gulf to the forefront as the deplorable humanitarian conditions that foreign workers suffer were brought to light as well as the great pressure they add to the health system during this critical time.

However, as Gulf States, including Kuwait and Oman, seek to organize foreign labor, Bahrain is heading in the opposite direction, as it seeks to put thousands of violating laborers together for short-term financial aims.

LMRA head, Osama Al-Absi, said that the authority invited thousands of violating workers to make use of the governmental offer and legalize their conditions.

LMRA is considered one of the largest residence permits traders in Bahrain. It has granted residence to 27,508 workers since it started the flexible work permit program in 2017.

This program grants violating workers residence in return for paying fees for two years amounting to 1474 BD.

LMRA obtains more than 20 million BD annually in return for selling residence permits for these workers and allowing them to work without restrictions.

According to a LMRA source, the authority still wants to sell residence permits to 48,000 foreign workers. This number was announced by LMRA in 2017, which means that it wants to add more than 20,000 violating workers to the program.

The fees the state's finances receive is not considered an important financial outcome, given the money these foreign workers transfer outside Bahrain and competing professionals and small traders.

Calls to abolish this program that negatively affects the country on the economic and social levels have increased. The General Federation of Workers Trade Unions in Bahrain has called for stopping the implementation of this system and gradually putting an end to it.

It called in a statement on Labor Day, which falls on May 1, for paying attention to the flaws of the flexible work permit system, its dangers on the Bahraini labor market and its inability to provide social protection to holders of such permits.

MPs have pressured in the past few days to end working by this program, however, the Coronavirus consequences are not pushing the government to change its policies in the issue of bringing more foreigners in.

For his part, the Labor Minister defended the project, saying that "it succeeded in reducing the number of irregular workers which the government is working to fight."

However, MPs say that addressing the irregular workers issue should be through deporting them, not through giving them legal status to reside in the country and compete with Bahrainis in the labor market.

The minister says that at least 21,000 irregular workers have become business owners thanks to the flexible visa.

The issue doesn't stop at the economic and financial consequences, as the pressure these workers add on the health system have led to increasing calls to do without them and replace them with Bahrainis.

The number of active Coronavirus cases in Bahrain reached 1127 cases, 90% are of expatriates, according to a medical source.

However, the LMRA head responded to these calls saying that the workers whom the LMRA grants residency have no Coronavirus cases. He said in a press conference that only 1.7% of the expatriates have Coronavirus.

Al-Absi said that since the first infection until April 26, 1909 expatriates were infected; 95.5% of whom are legal expatriates and 1.7% have flexible permits, which accounts to 32 infections only.

He revealed that correcting the status of 13284 foreign workers took place in April, however, it is still unknown whether they were sold flexible permits or not.

Arabic Version