‘Free visa’ alert

AROUND 11,000 Bangladeshis are believed to be living in Bahrain illegally, according to official figures. Most are “free visa” workers who pay huge amounts of money to come here and are asked to work for someone else once they arrive, said Bangladesh Embassy First Secretary Muhammad Ibrahim.

“They come to Bahrain by paying between BD1,400 and BD1,800 for a “free visa” according to the market price,” said Mr Ibrahim.

“But they don’t see or meet the real sponsor and a mediator deals with them.

“Many are facing trouble after their sponsor reports them as runaway or absent from work to the Labour Market Regularity Authority (LMRA).

“And they are stuck in a trap, as they can’t find a proper job or leave the country unless the sponsor agrees.

“If they leave, they will be blacklisted and won’t be able to come back again.”

Some of the “free visa” workers affected approached the Bangladesh Embassy for help during an open house on Friday.

An estimated 100,000 Bangladeshis live in Bahrain, making it one of the country’s largest expatriate communities.

Mr Ibrahim said the embassy was working with the LMRA to solve the “free visa” issue.

“We are closely working with the LMRA to find a solution to this problem,” he said.

“The problem is that many are low-income workers and mostly illiterate, so they don’t know what to do or where to go.

“We have appointed our embassy officials to reach them and explain the rules and regulations of Bahrain.

“We are also urging them not to fall into such scams and come to Bahrain only to find they are illegal.”