Amnesty in Bahrain

Extremely beautiful mountains, cold breeze, warm people and peaceful life. This is how Rosalia, 51 years old, described her home town in Mountain Province. Away from the city, life undoubtedly slow pace with a big portion of time spent in farming, preparing food, and tending to the house and needs of her family.

Until the chance to work abroad came in, it was once a lifetime opportunity.  A glimmer of hope, a mean to survive that would signify food on the table, school fees for her two children left to the care of her husband.  Working abroad means a way to fix their house.

With those aspirations, Rosalia grabbed the opportunity and entered Bahrain airport on July 2008.

But Bahrain, however has its own story to tell.

Amnesty-1dShe was employed to a French couple with 5 yrs old daughter as domestic helper.  Life has been very difficult after a month. She found herself with an abusive employer.  Over some minor mistakes, her lady employer will shout at her, at one time she threw a pot of boiling water in front of her.  “Apart from physical and verbal abuse, you cannot be sick, you cannot be sad, you have to hide your feelings and emotions particularly homesickness”, Rosalia recalled.  She was not given the mandatory day off once a week, her world revolved within the four (4) walls of her room.

Rosalia reported these abuses to her employment agency but they remained untouched and unresponsive contributing to her extremely difficult situation.

When the habitual beatings and harsh words become unbearable she finally escaped on January 2009 keeping in mind the serious consequences of her act. She executed the runaway through the helped of Asian security guard of the building.

Reluctant to return home, she found work elsewhere, doing housekeeping work, sometime accepting laundry work from Filipino kabayans. “Life has been very difficult everyday” she claimed.  Since the daring escape, Rosalia have been working illegally for the last couple of years.

On 1 July 2015,  Rosalia was one of those who trooped to Philippine Embassy to apply for the Amnesty Program of the Bahrain government through the Labor Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA). The Amnesty will end on 31 December 2015.

His Excellency Alfonso Ferdinand A. Ver, Philippine Ambassador to Bahrain explained that the Amnesty will enable undocumented or overstaying workers to legalize their presence in Bahrain by securing legal employment.

Overstaying Filipinos can either return to our country or legalize their stay without facing any punishment or blacklisting.  It also provides a chance for illegal workers to legalize their status and transfer employment without the consent of their original sponsors.

“I want to visit first my family in Mountain Province then come back to Bahrain”, Rosalia sighed with excitement after filling up the form to be submitted and reviewed by the embassy personnel.

Under the amnesty any illegal resident who leaves voluntarily will be able to return to Bahrain once they had secured legitimate employment.

Amnesty-1cIt was reported that close to 1,000 Filipino women domestic helpers have registered their intention to legalize their status as well as to transfer to new sponsor. A few percent agreed to be repatriated.

In support to the program, the Philippine Embassy encouraged overstaying Filipinos to avail the amnesty program.  An awareness campaign on LMRA guidelines and   information dissemination has been regularly conducted at the embassy ground.

However, those who have court cases against them and those with travel ban for outstanding debts are excluded in the program.

It can be recalled that Bahrain offered an amnesty in 2010 and helped more than 6,000 overstaying workers to go home without facing legal action.

Meanwhile, Migrante Bahrain Chapter Coordinator Lito Fedelino welcomes the granting of Amnesty Program by the host country to expatriates particularly Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

“It was indeed a humanitarian act, fellow expatriates will be reunited with their families and loved ones who have been away for years”, Fedelino claimed.

The undocumented workers and the run aways are the one prone to various types of abuses being victims of human rights and labor rights violations.

“Malaking bagay ito para sa mga Run away OFWs na maituwid ang kanilang problema sa legal na basehan ng paggawa sa usapin ng dokumentasyon.  Ito ay batayang tindig din ng Migrante sa lahat ng bansa kung saan may mga OFWs, ang paghiling sa host country ng mga ganitong proseso o amnestiya” Fedelino ended.

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