By Benjamin Millington
Bahrain's expatriate workers say they have been physically attacked by locals.
The Bahraini government is being urged to allocate land for the construction of labour cities across the country to provide workers with safe places to live, away from Bahrain’s residential areas.A council leader in the capital has called for the move following complaints from a group of construction workers living in Bahrain's Diraz area who say they are being persecuted by the local population who throw rocks at them and start fights.
One labourer said he had recently received three stitches in the head after being hit by a rock that was thrown through the camp's front window, according to Construction Week.
Council secretary for the Manama Municipality, Jassim Redha Hussain, condemned the attacks, but said they exemplify the tensions that exist between labourers living in residential areas and local Bahrainis across the Kingdom.
"There are big cultural differences between the way we live and we don't want these bachelors living in our family areas," he said.
"In Manama there are more than 100,000 Indian bachelors - this is a demographic bomb and the biggest concern is that we are losing our identity in our own villages.
"This demographic shift is very important, let alone the other problems like cultural problems, social problems and crime rates," he added.
Hussain blamed small and medium contractors for not providing adequate accommodation for labourers.
The labourers are employed by Ibrahim Construction, Ever Motion Construction, Maher Contracting and Mohammed Salmean Contracting.
Sathis Kumar from the Migrant Workers Protection Society's (MWPS) said it was an ongoing problem for the workers, who had done nothing to provoke the attacks.
"The local Bahrainis are always throwing stones and harassing these workers," he said.
"Other times they come into the camp and steal things. If the men keep their clothes outside to dry then the Bahrainis steal their clothes and burn them," he added.
"There are big cultural differences between the way we live" ....... "and the biggest concern is that we are losing our identity in our own villages." "The local Bahrainis are always throwing stones and harassing these workers," ......... "Other times they come into the camp and steal things. If the men keep their clothes outside to dry then the Bahrainis steal their clothes and burn them" It seems its not the labourers how are harassing locals but its vice versa.
I am not a muslim but I have been told that the Prophet ( PBUH ) has said in the hadith ( right spelling ? ) that a worker must be paid his wages " before the sweat on his brow dries up". What an amazing concept of fairness and justice ! For all its claims to want to build a just and international community why does the UAE government not pass a law on minimum wage for unskilled workers and why does it not allow the formation of labor unions so that the workers have a legitimate voice ? The people of the Indian subcontinent are not by nature violent. They suffer in silence until it becomes unbearable.I would like to urge the Authorities to think deeply about this issue and come up with fair , just and long lasting solutions in the whole of Gulf.
It's very easy to critise and blame workers and labourers because they are financially weak and donot have the money power to be like others. But don't forget that they too are human beings like you and me who were just born into a family with weak financial background. Besides being human, these labourers are the very men who have built the entire country brick by brick. They surely need to be provided proper accomodation and other facilities in residential areas instead of being dumped in a far away in a building located in a barren land.
The need of the hour is not cities housing asian labour but to provide some decent education to these locals. The locals should understand the cost of developmement and the authorities should ensure that the laws of the land are applied to all irrespective of the nationality. The saying goes like this' you are a theif if you stole a Elephant or eveven a small beetle nut'. All should be treated same in the eyes of law.
I can see this from two perspectives. On the one hand, if Bahrain really wants to build a post-oil economy based on an unsustainable property boom, the Bahrainis should build it themselves with the sweat of their own brows (it's not as if there is any shortage of unskilled, unemployed Bahraini labour), either that or put up and shut up and be more tolerant of the "guests" who do their hard work for them. On the other hand, I sympathise very much with Bahrainis who every day have to witness their traditional villages and way of life disappearing under bulldozers to make way for investment properties they can never afford. The people of the villages are often shipped out to horrible looking housing projects that will surely become trouble spots in years to come, just as those type of projects did in the UK and the US. As it is, I can see the problem starting to solve itself. The Dubai model of a post-oil economy based on speculative building projects seems set to implode, and Bahrain will need to find a better, more sustainable model to emmulate. Also, I'm sure India will be among the countries that in the long term will benefit from the current economic crisis, emerging as a proper economic superpower. When this happens, Indians will not want to go to work in the Gulf as skivvies where they are not welcome nd treated like dirt. Unless Bahrain and the other Gulf states abandon get rich quick, pennies from heaven approaches to a postoil economy, they will be the long-term losers. Such an about turn will require serious investment in education at all levels, and in employability skills and citizenship for Gulf locals. Only then will they be truly safe in a rapidly changing world.
I guess the solution is simple. If stones are thrown at you and your personal items stolen and burnt, then you need to be isolated and a fresh separate city built for you. Great, I hope the same solution is applied in case, the labour decides to pay back in the same coin, i.e. throw stones and steal their clothes and burn them. Will the solution be to shift the bahraini families to a new city for their own safety??? Trying to do an ostrich (aka head in sand) for the problem. or are we saying that there is no law in the land to tackle stone throwing and stealing by a resident? or are we saying that diffferent laws exists for residents of different nationalities, if so are we saying different nationalities have differing human rights? Matter of time, till the stones boomerang.
If the Local Bharanis feel it is a demographic bomb and concern to the life of local, why thay are allowing to bring not only Indian labours but all others. Because they need these poor people to lift their garbage, clean the street, to construct their building, to work in their house as slaves. Whey they feel shame to do all these work. Let them start to do these work themself then there will not be such problem of demographic bomb or concern on life. This is now just like the proverb " tiger will not eat grass and not let eat the cow". This report feel shame to the Locals. Just think where were you and now where are you, because of the blood and swet of the labours.
Well there is no excuse for any person to attack the others for any reason. However, it would be interesting to hear the locals part as well. Similar situations are developing in the UAE specially, Sharjah and Ajman. Maybe, it hasn't reached that extreme point yet, but there is certainly alot of frustration from the local side. Usually, the quite and safe local residential area gets distrusted by the moving of labourers. My family suffered from this, as their area is crowded by buses, trucks and pickups blocking the streets and parking illegally. Washing their vehicles causes massive amounts of standing water, spreading bugs and bad smell among the area. Each villa, has tens, not exaggerating, of asian bachelors living in them and this surely causes family to feel unrest in leaving their children at home. Again, there is no excuse for abusing others, but would want to hear the other party's point of view as well before judging them.
I should probably praise the Qatari government of having good forward thinking and creating proper rules for such incidents not taking place here. The rules here are probably the same for a qatari or a expatriate in 80% of the cases. Vandalism is not tolerated by the police itself and such incident are treated with utmost priority. I beleive if the rules are strict no nationality will have the courage to repeat such incident.
Labourers too human beings. A society is complete only with all its constituents. In the first place these labouers have not come to you on their own. You brought them for your developments, for cleaning of your cities. Though they are poor, they have not stole anything from you, instead they gave you back clean cities to boast yourself, gave their sweat to built your sky crappers, again to show off yourself. If you are worried about your culture, you should have thought before. These labourer communities too have their culture. It is utter nonsense to think of, to dump them away from the living habitats. Allah, The Almighty, will not forgive you in the day of judgement. Behold.