Illegal Bangladeshi workers apply for amnesty

Hundreds of illegal workers swamped the Bangladesh Embassy in Bahrain yesterday in the hope of returning home without prosecution.

Around 250 Bangladeshis, who have been living and working in Bahrain with improper documentation, attended an event to promote the Labour Market Regulatory Authority’s (LMRA) Easy Exit scheme.

It allows workers whose visas have expired to pay minimal fines to leave the country and escape further punishment.

Expatriates who overstay their work visas can leave Bahrain after paying a fine of BD15, while those who overstay visit visas can go after paying BD25.

An estimated 43,000 expats are living in Bahrain illegally, but authorities had hoped the scheme could help eliminate the problem.

The LMRA is now referring to such people as ‘irregular’ workers because some have not had their visas renewed by their employers as opposed to intentionally over-staying.

Rights activists earlier warned that many illegal immigrants could shun the scheme as a life outside the law here would be better than returning home.

LMRA corporate communications manager Waheed Al Balushi also revealed that the scheme could be scrapped if the response was too low.

However, officials said the swarm of people at the embassy was a positive sign for the future.

After receiving their travel permits, the workers were sent to the LMRA offices in Sanabis, where they had their documentation checked and paid the relevant fines.

According to embassy deputy head of mission Saiful Islam, more than 100 of those 250 were cleared to travel home by the LMRA.

‘They gave their fingerprints and had their documentation checked and more than 100 were cleared to travel so that is a very good sign,’ he said.

‘They will now be able to purchase their plane tickets back to Bangladesh and we expect most of them to travel in the next week.

‘The rest will have to check with their sponsor and with immigration before they can leave.’

The embassy opened especially yesterday for people to avail of the LMRA scheme and will continue to do so every Saturday until the end of the scheme.-TradeArabia News Service