BAHRAIN: Report of the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children

Below is a short summary of some of the key issues from report by the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, pursuant to her mission to Bahrain, Oman and Qatar. Read the full text. Please note that this is not an official UN summary.


The present report contains the main findings of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Sigma Huda, pursuant to her visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain from 29 October to 1 November 2006, to the Sultanate of Oman from 2 to 7 November and to the State of Qatar from 8 to 12 November. The Special Rapporteur found that Bahrain, Oman and Qatar are countries of destination and in some instances also of transit for trafficking of migrant workers, mainly for forced labour, including on camel farms, and sexual exploitation. The main victims are women and girls recruited as domestic workers and entertainers. Other workers, in particular men in the construction industry and in farm work, are also affected by this phenomenon albeit to a lesser extent. The main sending countries include Bangladesh, Belarus, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Myanmar, Nepal, North Korea, Pakistan, the Philippines, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, South Africa, Sri Lanka, the Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and Viet Nam. The Special Rapporteur wishes to emphasize, in fact, that many migrant workers do find in the receiving States what they had looked for a place which provides them with good working conditions, as well as with the possibility to live well and to have their rights and freedoms properly respected. Despite the positive returns that such migration brings to the countries concerned and to the migrants themselves, they however sometimes come at a painful and horrific price for some of the parties involved.

The Special Rapporteur highlighted two main concerns in her report. The first concern regards the sponsorship system and the unjust situation this arrangement causes, that of rendering foreign migrant workers dependant on their sponsors. She argued that in the unequal balance of power it creates, this system increases the vulnerability of foreign migrant workers and therefore fosters the demand for trafficking. The second main concern regards migrant domestic workers particularly in that the labour codes of the three countries exclude them from protection and thus place them, in practice, in a situation where their working conditions are regulated as private matters between the head of the household and themselves. Despite some measures, that have already in varying degrees been established, or are in the process of being elaborated, and despite the existence of a generally strong legal framework that provides for the protection of all workers, more is needed to empower foreign migrant workers; to closely monitor the implementation of existing laws; to ensure that investigations and prosecutions of all persons suspected of activities involving trafficking in persons are carried out and court decisions enforced.

The Special Rapporteur concluded that Bahrain has  recognized the existence of trafficking in persons within its borders. The Government is, however, still falling short of fulfilling its international obligations to act with due diligence to prevent trafficking, prosecuting and punishing traffickers and to provide trafficked persons with the appropriate remedies and assistance. More efforts are also needed to clarify the concept of trafficking in persons to public officials with a view to ensuring that the current legislation is enforced. Sensitization of the general public is also essential in order to eradicate discriminatory attitudes and practices towards migrant workers. The Special Rapporteur supported the adoption of the Gulf Cooperation Council Guiding Principles on combating trafficking and the stronger regional cooperation on trafficking in persons that this will encourage. Her final recommendations concerned prevention, protection and punishment measures for the Government to adopt to combat the problem of human trafficking.


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