Thousands of Filipino workers stand to benefit from a revised policy of the government of Bahrain which grants Flexi Work Permit to migrants beginning early this month, the labor department said on Tuesday.
The Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Manama reported that the Arab state has reinforced its work permit system in an effort to curb the mounting number of illegal migrant workers that led to many cases of abuses.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the new policy will provide added protection to over a thousand OFWs in Bahrain who are holders of this type of visa.
According to Hana AL Safar, Director of Communications of the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) in Bahrain, the new policy provides for intensified inspection on foreign workers to ensure that they are not involved in the practice of professions or engaged in occupations that they are not allowed to do. These jobs include car washing, street vending, or operate businesses, among others.
Bello said that under the new policy, regular inspections will be conducted on manpower agencies to ensure that they are legitimate or duly licensed and are not engaged in unscrupulous hiring of run-away household service workers (HSWs) to provide hourly cleaning services to families, posing high health risks both to workers and clients.
He added that manpower agencies and workers who, in the course of inspection, are found to have breached the flexi permit guidelines will be denied permission to regularize their status, face deportation, and barred from re-entry to the Arabian state.
Al Absi, CEO of LMRA, on the other hand, emphasized that runaway workers cannot be granted Flexi Permit. Neither can they transfer employer nor resume work with their current employers. If they are found by authorities to have been absent for over 15 days without prior notice, they lose their chance to regularize their status and face immediate deportation.
To ensure service quality and foster competitiveness, Al Safar revealed that a special committee has been formed with representation from various relevant government bodies to undertake the crafting of the criteria and professional standards and qualifications for the practice of 20 identified professions.
Based on the POLO-Bahrain report to Bello, the flexible work permit was launched 2017 with the purpose of addressing the growing number of undocumented foreign workers in Bahrain, estimated at 55,000 to date, 2,280 of which are Filipinos.
Since its implementation in 2017, reports have it that there was a 43% drop in the number of foreign workers illegally staying in Bahrain, covering workers with expired or terminated visas, those with labor-related cases filed against their employers including non-payment of salaries, and those whose companies have cancelled Commercial Registration or business licenses.
Bello lauded the government of Bahrain saying that “with the numerous violations and abuses committed against flexi permit holders in the past, the newly developed flexi work permit policy will improve work environments. It will provide protection to the thousands OFWs who are holders of flexi permit from becoming victims of human trafficking and labor-related abuses”.