It is a very common practice in Bahrain and the Gulf for the passport and travel documents of migrant workers to be confiscated and withheld by their employers/sponsors. Unsuspecting migrant workers hand over their documents as they are not aware of their rights; employers and sponsors often use this collateral to bully, abuse and hold the workers hostage.
The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights released a report today about the tragic effects that this practice continues to have on migrant workers in Bahrain. The report provides a very good overview of the different aspects of passport-withholding, using the examples of a few individual cases. Most notable however is the excellent set of recommendations at the end of the report, aimed towards the Bahraini authorities, the foreign embassies as well as local civil societies. Among the recommendations are:
To the Bahraini authorities:
F. Laws and regulations that protect the sponsor should be established, so sponsors do not need to hold the passport, providing that these laws and regulations do not restrict the freedoms of the migrant workers to move and their right to keep their travel documents.
To the embassies that represent the migrant workers:
B. Prior to their traveling to their destination country, Migrant Workers, specially women, should be informed about working conditions and their rights and duties according to the domestic law, and international standards.
D. To hold accountable their fellow citizens who work with rented commercial registration or with local recruiting agents or as sponsor who are found to violate the rights of these workers.
To civil societies:
A. The rights of migrant workers are part of human rights and rights of national workers which can not be separated. Hence, local trade unions, as well as rights and women societies and organizations, should take the responsibility to equally defend these workers.
You can read the full report by clicking this link. Strongly recommended.