India’s Bahrain mission plans new move to protect workers’ rights

September 27th, 2008 - 4:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Dubai, Sep 27 (IANS) The Indian embassy in Bahrain has decided to ask the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) to ensure that employers in the Gulf nation get a consent letter signed by their Indian employees before they hand over their passports.The Bahrain mission’s proposal comes in the wake of a series of complaints from Indian workers who allege that their employers demand money for the return of passports.

There are around 290,000 expatriate Indians in Bahrain and a large number of them work as contract labourers in that Gulf nation’s booming construction industry.

“In court, many companies often deny taking away the passport of their employee and say that they don’t have it,” an embassy official told the Bahrain Tribune newspaper.

“It is then difficult to prove who is lying. The court requires proof that the passport was indeed taken by the sponsor,” the official said.

The complaints from workers continued even as a new labour regime came into effect in Bahrain from July this year.

Under the provisions of the new Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA), local employers cannot keep the passports of their expatriate workers.

Nowadays, the LMRA itself endorses a two-year residence permit for an expatriate worker thereby ensuring that such workers need not hand over their passports to their employers who otherwise ask for the document for “required government procedures”, the report said.

Despite this, social workers in that country claimed employers continued to demand that their expatriate workers hand over their passports.

That is why India’s Ambassador to Bahrain Balkrishna Shetty is planning to send the recommendation to MOIA, calling for employers to have their workers sign a consent letter before taking the passports.

According to the proposal, employees should also lodge a complaint with the embassy if their passports are taken without the employer giving a receipt.

In such a scenario, the embassy will take up the issue with the Bahraini labour authorities and the company may even face blacklisting from the embassy.

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