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Tue 2 Aug 2011 03:26 PM

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Bahrain expats call for fixed wage, citizenship overhaul

Foreign workers ask for review of residency, minimum salaries in dialogue sessions

Bahrain expats call for fixed wage, citizenship overhaul
Bahrain faced international pressure to begin reconciliation after the fierce crackdown on protesters

Bahrain expatriates called for the introduction of a minimum
wage and an overhaul of citizenship rules in sessions of a national dialogue
for reforms in the Gulf kingdom.

Foreign workers used sessions to call for an overhaul of
visa requirements and the creation of a minimum salary, and a system to allow
wages to be paid directly into employees’ bank accounts, the government of
Bahrain said in an emailed summary of the talks

Expat workers also asked for a review of rules relating to
citizenship, suggesting the children of longtime residents should receive residency
automatically after the age of 18.

The National Dialogue is a state-appointed body tasked with
airing political grievances in the wake of widespread political protests that
rocked the Gulf state earlier this year.

According to a summary of its report, the panel proposed
increased powers for parliament and new focus on human rights, but offered few
details.

Bahrain faced international pressure to begin reconciliation
after the fierce crackdown in which hundreds were arrested in the tiny Gulf state,
a financial hub and host to the US Fifth Fleet.

Tensions have remained high in the weeks since martial law
was lifted, with thousands marching outside Manama this weekend to protest the
outcome of the National Dialogue sessions.

Shouting "We want freedom" and waving Bahraini
flags and banners that read "No to dialogue", protesters marched
along Budaiya highway as helicopters from the security forces buzzed overhead.

Opposition groups and many in the Shi'ite population argued
their voice in the dialogue was overshadowed by a majority of pro-government
participants.

The government said it had selected representation that
accurately reflect society.

Wefaq, the largest Shi'ite opposition group, walked out of
the dialogue several weeks ago and members said they felt their actions were
justified after the body's results were announced.

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