[7 January 2007] - A new law to combat human trafficking in Bahrain has been backed by the Shura Council.
The arrival of minors, particularly girls from southeast Asian countries to work in Bahrain as housemaids, has been a thorny issue for the government.
Cases of poor labourers being duped to take up ‘high-paying’ jobs are hoped to drop as the new law stipulates fines between BD10,000 and BD100,000 and jail terms.
The punishment will be doubled if those brought into the country have been involved in criminal or terrorist activities.
It will also be doubled if those trafficked are under 15, female or disabled as well as if they sustain long-term sickness or injury due to the activity they have been forced to do.
The new law, drafted by the government and approved by parliament earlier in the year, will now be ratified by His Majesty King Hamad.
It also sets up a new Human Trafficking Victims Assessment Commission, which will be under the jurisdiction of the Social Development Ministry.
The new commission will be responsible for offering medical and psychological treatment to human trafficking victims.
It will also send them back to their home countries once treatment is over, or find them jobs in the country if permitted by the Interior Minister, with their stay being assessed every six months.
A new National Human Trafficking Authority will also be set up under the Interior Minister. It will come up with programmes to combat human trafficking and co-operate with others involved in similar activities.
Council foreign affairs, defence and national security committee secretary Rashid Al Sabt said that the new law, which is likely to be approved in the next few months, was in line with international conventions and treaties Bahrain has recently signed.
A handbook on planning projects to prevent child trafficking (September 2007)
UN Study on Violence Against Children - civil society gateway