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Wed 25 Feb 2015 12:06 PM

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Bahrain under renewed pressure to segregate expats from citizens

An alleged break-in at a Bahraini home has prompted fresh calls for the gov't to segregate expat labourers from other residents

Bahrain under renewed pressure to segregate expats from citizens
Residential neighborhood of Manama backdropped by the central downtown area. (Getty Images)

An alleged break-in at a Bahraini home has prompted fresh calls for the government to segregate expat labourers from other residents.

The Southern Municipal Council has ramped up pressure on the government to house expat labourers in segregated neighbourhoods – a move that Bahraini MPs considered in 2007 but which was never introduced.

It follows an incident in which, the council claims, an Asian labourer broke into a house in Isa Town on Friday, attacked a 65-year-old Bahraini man and his son with a stick and tried to rape a woman, according to a report in the Gulf Daily News.

A suspect had since been arrested and referred to the Public Prosecution for breaking into a house and attacking the man and his son – although the Interior Ministry made no mention of the alleged rape.

The incident reportedly prompted council committee chairman Mohammed Mousa to criticise the Bahraini government on Tuesday for failing to implement the segregation plans.

“The government is not serious about solving the problem,” he said. “We had sent a proposal in 2010 that includes stipulations on owners renting houses to labourers, which includes approval of contracts signed between them, as well as inspecting the house to check its state or if they are close to residential houses.

“However, the proposal was forgotten. The ministry claimed, and is still claiming, that work on a plan to solve the problem is ongoing, but I can confidently say this is not true because they haven’t even allocated land to house labourers until now.”

The newspaper also cited Mousa’s colleague, councillor Bader Al Dossary, who slammed foreign labourers as “lacking morals and religion” and said he feared this could rub off on Bahraini citizens.

“I don't want to sound racist, but this is the truth and I believe their workplaces should also be within segregated areas as well.”

However, councillor Abdulla Al Qobaisi accused “heartless” Bahraini landlords for cramming up to 20 labourers at a time into cramped accommodation in unhygienic, unregulated labour camps.

“Where are the human rights organisations [in all this]?” he asked.

The council estimates that more than 290,000 expat labourers are living in residential areas across Bahrain. MPs had proposed housing them in segregated neighbourhoods in 2007, but the plans were never implemented.

It is not the first time Bahrain has sought to separate expats from citizens. In January, the government announced new rules to house expat bachelors in separate neighbourhoods, claiming Bahraini families had accused them of immoral behaviour and causing a “nuisance”.

And, in 2013, Kuwait approved plans to allocate segregate medical care according to nationality. Specific hours of the day were designated for nationals and expatriates to access medical attention, with Kuwaitis given priority for check-ups in the morning and foreigners only able to visit doctors in the afternoon.