Bahrain cracks down on unsafe migrant worker housing

Published February 21st, 2016 - 03:00 GMT
Statistics indicate that most of the irregularities were found in single homes rather than in large labour accommodation companies. (Business Insider)
Statistics indicate that most of the irregularities were found in single homes rather than in large labour accommodation companies. (Business Insider)

Legal action has been taken against 112 labour accommodations in Bahrain over the past three years, it has been revealed. These camps posed a threat to the lives of expatriate workers living there, according to authorities. A total of 436 irregularities were corrected after inspections and warnings.

Last year alone, 1,300 labour accommodations were inspected and 70 violations recorded by the Labour Ministry. These cases are being processed prior to being referred to the prosecution. The statistics are contained in a report on labour accommodations for 2012-2015, Labour and Social Development Ministry Labour Under-Secretary Sabah Al Dossary told the GDN. “The ministry has taken legal action against 112 labour accommodations, over the past three years, while last year we recorded 70 violations, for which warnings have been issued,” he said.

“The employers responsible for these camps, who are prosecuted, failed to change the housing conditions over the last three years, including cutting off electricity and other irregularities, while the others are served with warnings. “The ministry’s team inspected 1,300 labour housings in 2015, which surveyed 2,727 workers in these accommodations for their feedback. “The inspectors registered 36 irregularities within the accommodations, while 34 complaints were notified to the ministry by labourers themselves.

“A prominent irregularity recorded was poor living conditions in these accommodations, as most of these buildings were old and falling apart, posing a threat to the lives of people living there. “The buildings lacked fire-fighting facilities and hygiene in kitchens and bathrooms. Most of them were overcrowded with more than a dozen people living in one room and they lacked in electrical wiring safety.”

Mr Al Dossary noted that the violators will face legal action for non-compliance, starting with warning to remove the violation and finally prosecution. “It is worth mentioning that a majority of the violations were rectified after warning was issued,” he said. Most of the irregularities over the years were found in isolated bachelor accommodations.

“Statistics indicate that most of the irregularities were found in single homes rather than in large labour accommodation companies,” said Mr Al Dossary. “This was mainly because they escaped the supervisory inspections as they do not come under the category of labour housing and also they don’t look like one. “So, we have now delegated on-field teams in each governorate to inspect bachelor accommodations like these, as a means to bridge this gap in the system and to prevent employers taking advantage of this.”

Mr Al Dossary noted that as many as 436 irregularities were removed since 2012 during follow-up visits, after inspections and warnings. According to law, labour camps must be far from urban and residential locations. Employers should notify the details of camps, including location, number of workers accommodated and their gender, within 15 days of setting up the same. The employer is obliged to ensure safe wiring and electrical boxes, and the bed space for each person should not be less than four square metres, with good lighting and ventilation, apart from storage facility for clothing. 

Anti-fire requirements certified by the Civil Defence, first-aid facilities, kitchens, toilets, drinking water sources and sanitation must be in line with approved norms. Inspectors of Labour Ministry’s Occupational Safety department have the right to inspect these camps to make sure these specifications are maintained, said Mr Al Dossary. 

By Raji Unnikrishnan

 

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