Bahrain: Draft Legislation Proposes to Criminalize Trafficking

Bahrain Tribune
Human traffickers in Bahrain will be punished with the anticipated passage of a law making trafficking a criminal act.
Minister of Social Development Fatima Al Balooshi said the Government had set up a national action plan against trafficking, and the legislative document has already been prepared by an inter-ministerial task force.

“It is just a matter of time but the final version of the bill has been completed and will be passed to Parliament soon,” the minister said.

She was one of the key officials who joined yesterday’s roundtable discussions on combating trafficking in people.

The programme was held with US State Department advisors on trafficking issues led by Laura Lederer.

US Ambassador to Bahrain William Monroe said the forum was to help governments focus closely on global trafficking which accounts for the exploitation of roughly some 800,000 people – mostly women and children – across borders around the world.

“This scourge is modern-day slavery involving victims forced, defrauded or coerced into labour or sexual exploitation,” the ambassador said. He said the US Congress had allocated more than $ 82 million in funding for efforts to end trafficking outside the United States.

Monroe lauded the Bahraini Government’s initial step to address trafficking, including its opening last year of a shelter for victims of trafficking and the creation of a high-level task force to deal with the issue.

However, he said the Kingdom still needs to address other issues including “developing a system for tracking, compiling and disseminating trafficking-related statistics.”

Bahrain can also continue to develop victim-protection programmes in addition to the opening of the shelter. The envoy also called for the need to educate expatriate workers about their rights and obligations and the public about the consequences of abusing foreign workers.

Bahrain is considered one of the “destination countries” in the global trafficking arena considering the Kingdom’s intake of thousands of workers, including domestic workers, every year. Until last year, the Kingdom was in the “tier two” watchlist of the US State Department’s report on human trafficking.

That means Bahrain will have to improve legislation and enforcement against global trafficking. The forum was attended by senior officials including Ministry of Foreign Affairs Assistant Undersecretary Shaikh Abdulaziz bin Mubarak Al Khalifa who chaired the inter-ministerial task force.

He said trafficking issues for Bahrain are not just about entries across the border because Bahrain already applies strict laws over entry by foreign nationals. “The issue is not so much on entries of foreign nationals but the issue is what happens to them once they are inside the country.

“We have moved from a situation where people objected to the very terminology of human trafficking and its apparent association with the buying and selling of human beings as a form of property, to an understanding that the reality of trafficking is the denial of rights and the exploitation of vulnerability,” Shaikh Abdul Aziz said.

Bahrain hosts some 200,000 foreign workers. Workers particularly in the construction sector and an estimated 45,000 foreign housemaids had posed thorny issues to the Government over the past years.

Officials would not comment on the highlights of the draft bill except to say that the bill is “comprehensive” and will make trafficking a “criminal act.” The draft law stipulates punishment including jail terms to human traffickers.