Bahrain (Tier 2 Watch List)
Bahrain is a destination country for women and men who migrate legally from South Asia and the Philippines and – to a lesser extent – from China, Indonesia, the former Soviet Union, Morocco, and Ethiopia, but fall victim to conditions of sexual servitude, debt bondage, and other exploitative conditions that constitute involuntary servitude.
The Government of Bahrain does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Bahrain is placed on Tier 2 Watch List because of the lack of evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year. Although Bahrain has developed a national plan of action and created an inter-ministerial taskforce on trafficking, these efforts were not accompanied by concrete actions to address the substantial trafficking problem it faces. During the reporting period, the government did not prosecute any person on trafficking charges, despite continued reports of foreign workers in conditions of involuntary servitude. A promised government-run shelter for trafficking victims has not opened and some prominent Bahrainis reportedly continue to illegally sell "free visas" to workers, thereby indirectly facilitating the trafficking of victims. Bahrain should develop and implement appropriate anti-trafficking measures to address these concerns.
The Government of Bahrain did not improve its prosecution record during the reporting period. Although Bahrain lacks anti-trafficking laws to prosecute traffickers, it has ruled in favor of workers in numerous cases of abuses and non-payment of wages. The Ministry of Labor provides mediation services to resolve labor disputes. In 2004, the Ministry of Labor mediated and resolved 624 complaints and it referred 1,926 complaints to courts, though it is unknown how many, if any, of these cases are trafficking-related. Bahrain reported that it is investigating 43 employers for offenses related to abuse of "free visa" privileges to bring in foreign workers. Press reports indicate that the government arrested and deported foreign women for engaging in prostitution during the year; however, there is no evidence that the government attempted to identify potential trafficking victims among the arrested women. During the reporting period, the government shut down some manpower agencies engaged in trafficking-related offenses. Bahrain's court system is overburdened with cases; many labor complaints languish in courts.
The Government of Bahrain took some steps to protect victims of trafficking over the last year. It registered the Migrant Workers Group (MWG) – an NGO working to protect vulnerable foreign laborers – and gave it permission to open a shelter for trafficking victims. Bahrain's inter-ministerial taskforce on trafficking announced the establishment of a safe house for victims. The government does not, however, take adequate measures to identify trafficking victims and accord them with sufficient protections. In most cases, victims are detained and deported, though the government encourages them to pursue their cases through their embassies. The government's telephone hotline to assist victims of abuse continues to encounter operational problems and is staffed by people with inadequate training.
In 2004, the Government of Bahrain took a few positive steps to prevent trafficking. Despite prior agreement with IOM to conduct a trafficking survey, the project did not materialize, as the government did not grant the necessary permission for IOM to operate in the country. The government announced a plan for conducting public awareness campaigns on the issue of labor exploitation and potential trafficking. It continued to meet with local embassies on a monthly basis to address trafficking-related concerns and distributed pamphlets in Arabic, Bengali, English, Singhalese, Tagalog, Thai, and Urdu to foreign workers. In 2004, Bahrain launched a campaign to educate employers on the country's labor laws and announced plans to tighten the issuance of visitor visas in response to reports of increased abuses of foreign workers.