Bahrain campaign launched to penalise firms that withhold expat passports

Employers have been blackmailing expat workers into paying large amounts of money in return for their passports

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

A campaign has been launched in Bahrain to punish recruitment companies that withhold passports of expat workers.

The move came after expat workers complained that their employers have blackmailed them into paying large amounts of money in return for their passports, said The Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS), the association behind the campaign.

“We recommend that employers who do not return passports are penalised in such a way as to send out a clear message that this practice is simply not acceptable,” the association said in a statement reported by Gulf Daily News.

It pointed out that Bahrain’s current system works against the victims, explaining that if expat workers file a complaint to the Labour Ministry, the complaint does not go through if the workers are not in possession of a copy of their CPR. The workers are then referred to police forces, who turn them away and ask them to deal directly with their employers.

Once the workers returns to the office, they are threatened for having gone to the police and are blackmailed for a large sum of money in return for their passports. However, even after the amount is paid, most of the companies do not return the passports.

As a result, expat workers are obliged to apply for new passports, but are unable meanwhile to get a new work visa approved without permission of their old employers.

Besides the campaign, the MWPS is currently working on introducing a new law that allows police officers to retrieve passports of expat workers being withheld by employers.

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