Bahrain labour camps unsafe: India, Pakistan diplomats

August 22nd, 2008 - 5:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Dubai, Aug 22 (IANS) A major tragedy is in the offing in Bahrain if current conditions in several labour accommodation camps there are anything to go by, Indian and Pakistani diplomats have warned.India’s Ambassador to Bahrain Balkrishna Shetty and the Pakistan embassy community welfare attaché Habib-ur-Rehman Gilani made these comments after meeting around 150 Indian and Pakistani workers in Manama who were rendered homeless after a fire engulfed their labour accommodation Wednesday.

“The way these people are staying poses a great danger to their lives,” the Gulf Daily News quoted Shetty as saying.

He called upon labour authorities in that Gulf nation to take note of wood, cardboard and plastic sheet structures that were being used as labour camps.

“They come here to earn a living and end up staying in unsafe conditions. We have to try and ensure this does not happen,” Gilani said.

“Whether it is the employers, the embassies, the police and civil defence authorities, or even the employees themselves, we have to sit and ensure that workers’ safety takes precedence over anything else,” he said.

Referring to a labour camp fire in Bahrain two years ago that claimed the lives of 16 Indian workers, Shetty said: “There was a comprehensive report on workers’ accommodation safety after the Gudaibiya fire tragedy more than two years ago. There were several recommendations in that which we now see have not been implemented on the ground.”

The Indian mission is still following a court case it has filed demanding a compensation of 1.4 Bahraini dinars ($4.2 million) for the families of those who died in that incident.

“We have to ensure these are implemented as soon as possible to prevent other Gudaibiyas from happening,” the ambassador said.

Of the 290,000 expatriate Indians in Bahrain, a large number work in the country’s booming construction industry as contract labourers.

Meanwhile, the over 150 Indian and Pakistani workers were still trying to salvage the situation after they lost almost everything they owned when fire gutted the building they lived in at the Faraq Al Fadehl Ma’tam locality in Manama Wednesday afternoon.

The workers, employed by several companies, escaped serious injury or loss of life as most of them they were out at work at the time of the incident but lost most of their belongings.

According to reports, they were being helped out in rebuilding their lives by officials from the Indian and Pakistani embassies, volunteers of NGO Helping Hands and the Art of Living Foundation.

“As an immediate first step, the authorities should get together and conduct a loss evaluation of the latest incident,” Gilani said.

“These people have to be helped in rebuilding their lives and we should also ensure such tragedies are not repeated,” he added.

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