7th APRIL 2015 - Vol.XXXVIII No.018
Local News

Pledge to monitor workers' housing

ACTIVISTS have pledged to set up a watchdog to monitor the implementation of new rules regulating labour accommodation in Bahrain.

The GDN reported yesterday on a Cabinet-drafted piece of legislation that will introduce fines and jail time for landlords who risk the lives of expatriate workers by cramming them into cramped and dangerously rundown properties.

The rules state that any property used for labour accommodation must provide at least 40 square feet (3.7 sqm) of space for each tenant and house no more than eight people in a single room, which should be at least 10 feet in height.

However, the amendments must first be approved by parliament and the Shura Council before they can come into effect.

Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society secretary-general Faisal Fulad said he intended to form a Workers Housing Watch (WHW) to monitor the implementation of the law.

"We believe that the law must be applied in full and not just remain as ink on paper," he said.

"Many foreign workers in Bahrain live in conditions that are unhealthy and dangerous.

"It is unfair to treat migrant labourers like this - we have lost enough lives due to unsafe housing conditions and we cannot afford this any longer.

"The WHW will have representatives on the ground to take pictures and make reports on the implementation of the law before sending these reports to the authorities, the International Labour Organisation and the Human Rights Council."

Capital Trustees Board chairman Mohammed Al Khozaee called for additional inspectors to be deployed in the affected areas.

"We are happy that the Cabinet took this decision and has incorporated our recommendations about the number of people and the room sizes," he said.

"Now is the time to implement this strictly, which is not easy, but definitely possible.

"It may not happen overnight, but it can be implemented in phases. We need more inspectors from the Labour Ministry and the Labour Market Regulatory Authority to be out in these areas, which are mainly in Manama.

"They should be regularly checking labour accommodation and violations should be reported."

Meanwhile, Migrant Workers Protection Society chairwoman Marietta Dias welcomed the proposed rules, but said that more needed to be done.

"The restrictions on room size and the number of rooms are welcome, but the living conditions inside these rooms must also be monitored," she said.

"We have seen in the past incidents like the fire in Manama two years ago where 13 workers died.


"Badly maintained accommodation must be strictly prohibited.

"The landlord must be held responsible for the people who are living inside the accommodation that he has hired out and he cannot simply excuse himself by saying that he has further leased it to someone else.

"If the landlord hires out the building for a certain amount to middle men who further lease the accommodation to 30 or 50 labourers this is illegal and must also be stopped.

"The law is good, but there should be enough officials on the ground monitoring its implementation."

MPs will now discuss the proposed amendments to the law regulating labour accomodation over the coming weeks.

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