Bahrain: Abuse of Migrant Workers Despite Reforms

Urgent Need to Enforce Labor Laws, Provide Redress
Embargoed for Release Not for Publication Until: 03:00 GMT on Monday, October 1, 2012 06:00 in Beirut, October 1, 2012

(Beirut, October 1, 2012) – Hundreds of thousands of mostly South Asian migrant workers in Bahrain face exploitation and abuse despite government reforms intended to protect them, Human Rights Watch said in a report issued today.

The 122-page report, “For A Better Life: Migrant Worker Abuse in Bahrain and the Government Reform Agenda,” documents the many forms of abuse and exploitation suffered by migrant workers in Bahrain and details the government’s efforts to provide redress and strengthen worker protections. Bahraini authorities need to implement labor safeguards and redress mechanisms already in place and prosecute abusive employers, Human Rights Watch said. The government should extend the 2012 private sector labor law to domestic workers, who are excluded from key protections.

Photographs

  • Workers had been transported in an open-air flat bed truck, which provide little more than a bench for seating and no safety belts. Several migrant workers have died in traffic accidents while riding in open-air trucks. Bahrain recently banned the use of these trucks for transporting workers and they become far less common.
    © 2010 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • Construction workers in Manama wait, hard hats in hand, to begin their work day. In Bahrain migrant workers comprise 97 percent of “low pay” workers, which the government defines as earning less than BD200 (US$530) a month. Construction workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported earning between BD60 and BD100 ($159-$265) a month.
    © 2010 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • Migrant workers in Manama show their monthly timecards indicating hours they worked, but for which, they say, they have not been compensated. Unpaid wages is one of the most common human rights abuses migrant workers face. Workers often go without pay for months, unable to support themselves, their families back home, or to repay the debts they incurred to come to Bahrain.
    © 2010 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • Construction workers in central Manama wait to be picked up for work.
    © 2010 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • Workers in Manama lower heavy equipment onto a construction site.
    © 2010 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • Construction workers build a highway overpass on a 102 °F (39 °C) day in June, covering their faces with old T-shirts to mitigate the effects of the heat. Heat-related workplace injuries are common in Bahraini summers, where the temperatures often reach 107 °F (42°C). The government has banned midday outdoor labor in July and August, and enforces this safety policy with regular site inspections.
    © 2010 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • Migrant workers supply the bulk of the labor in Bahrain's many construction and government infrastructure projects, including large mosques, luxury high rises, and highway overpasses.
    © 2010 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • The green boxes are kerosene burners used by workers in many labor camps across Bahrain to cook food. Bahraini safety codes ban the burners, which have been linked to several fatal fires.
    © 2010 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • This labor camp in the village of Barbar, outside Manama, like others in Bahrain, is in a dilapidated building, with insufficient sanitation, crumbling walls, exposed wiring, and lacking many basic amenities. The 24 male migrant workers in this camp sleep on plywood beds, crammed into four small bedrooms.
    © 2010 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • These twelve men share a one room labor camp, with no beds and no air conditioner.
    © 2010 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • Although the practice is illegal in Bahrain, many migrant workers are forced to pay recruitment fees in their home countries to cover the cost of visas, work permits, travel and fees to agents. The resulting indebtedness of workers makes them vulnerable to exploitation, as they remain locked into jobs—even abusive ones—in order to repay their debts.
    © 2010 Mani Mostofi/Human Rights Watch

  • Domestic workers at a shelter run by the Migrant Worker Protection Society (MWPS), a Bahraini NGO and one of the only migrant worker advocacy groups in the Gulf. Volunteers with the MWPS provide abused workers with a safe place to stay, help them file labor complaints for unpaid wages or confiscated passports, and take workers to police stations to file criminal charges for physical and sexual abuse.
    © 2010 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch