Bahrain: Complaints mechanism for migrant workers welcome but barriers to justice may still remain, NGO warns
In December 2019, Bahrain's Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) announced the launch of a new service to allow migrant workers to sue their employees for mistreatment and labour abuse.
The two new branches of the LMRA allow workers to report abuse without needing to go directly to the Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowment Ministry. The service offers support including a translation service and help compiling identity and employment information; if workers are not in possession of these themselves the service can access them directly through a database. The service only registers those cases that go to the labour court, however.
Responding to the news, NGO Migrant-Rights acknowledged the potential of the service to fill existing gaps preventing migrant workers from seeking redress for abuse. Nevertheless, Migrant-Rights has also highlighted a number of areas where the proposed changes may fall short. The barriers to justice they highlight include: translation of all documents into Arabic for the labour court; navigating and understanding the labour court and its processes; and practical access to a lawyer and attendance at the court. Even once workers obtain a ruling in their favour, Migrant-Rights warned, the ruling may not be enforced, or the employer may refuse or be unable to pay compensation or outstanding salaries.
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Assistance [through the new service] is provided only for filing initial complaint, and does not address the many barriers to obtaining justice that follow once complaint is registered...
The LMRA’s assistance unit will help reduce barriers to filing labour dispute complaints... But access to redressal mechanisms and access to justice are two distinct things. The Bahraini government must do more to systematically combat non-payment of wages and assist distressed migrant workers throughout the labour court process and not just filing complaints. First, it should allow workers to change employers when there's a dispute and second, by facilitating legal aid.
Author: Labour Market Regulatory Authority (Bahrain)
A new initiative is being launched to streamline the process of helping distressed expatriate employees sue their employers.
Two special offices will be opened soon to assist an aggrieved worker compile all relevant documents and submit a complaint electronically on the same day to the Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Ministry...
The staff will register the complaints and compile all documents including evidence which will then be submitted electronically to the ministry...
However, Mr Al Absi [LMRA chief executice] clarified that the two offices will only register labour dispute cases that go the court.