BAHRAIN : US Trafficking in Persons Report 2007
Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000: Trafficking in Persons Report 2007
U.S. Department of State
BAHRAIN (Tier 3)
Bahrain is a destination country for men and women trafficked for the purposes of involuntary servitude and commercial sexual exploitation. Men and women from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Ethiopia, and Eritrea migrate voluntarily to Bahrain to work as laborers or domestic servants, but some are subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude when forced to pay off large recruitment and transportation fees, and faced with the withholding of passports and other restrictions on their movement, non-payment of wages, threats, and physical or sexual abuse. Women from Thailand, Morocco, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia are trafficked to Bahrain for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor. The Thai government reported repatriating 256 Thai women who had been deceived or forced into prostitution in Bahrain.
The Government of Bahrain does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. Bahrain took the positive step of opening a shelter for female trafficking victims in November 2006, but failed to enact a comprehensive anti-trafficking law. The government also did not report any prosecutions or convictions for trafficking offenses during the year, despite reports of a substantial problem of involuntary servitude and sex trafficking. The government should enact a comprehensive anti-trafficking law that criminalizes all forms of trafficking in persons and assigns penalties both sufficiently stringent to deter the crime and adequately reflective of the heinous nature of the crime. Bahrain should also ensure that victims are not punished or deported for unlawful acts committed as a result of being trafficked, and should offer protective services to all victims of trafficking, including women coerced into prostitution and both female and male victims of forced labor.
During the year, Bahrain made no discernable progress in criminally investigating and prosecuting trafficking crimes. Bahraini law does not prohibit all forms of trafficking, though its penal code of 1976 criminalizes forced prostitution through its Article 325 and forced labor through a 1993 amendment to its Article 302. Penalties prescribed under Article 302 are up to two years’ imprisonment, which are not sufficiently stringent. Penalties for forced prostitution (Article 325), however, are from two to seven years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent. Despite indications that the trafficking problem in Bahrain is significant, the government did not provide evidence of prosecuting any cases of trafficking for involuntary servitude or forced prostitution. Laws against withholding workers’ passports – a common practice that restricts the mobility of migrant workers – were not effectively enforced, and the practice remained widespread. A module devoted to trafficking was included in a training course for newly appointed public prosecutors. The government should significantly increase investigations and criminal prosecutions of labor traffickers, sex traffickers, and recruitment agencies complicit in trafficking.
Bahrain took some measures to protect trafficking victims over the past year. In November 2006, the government opened a shelter that offers medical, psychological and legal care, and is capable of accommodating at least 60 female victims of labor trafficking. Victims can only enter the facility by referral, however; to date, 14 victims have been assisted. Foreign victims of sex trafficking receive no protection from the government, but are directly processed for deportation. Local NGOs supporting trafficking victims in informal shelters did not receive any government funding. The government has not instituted a formal victim identification procedure to identify victims among vulnerable groups, such as runaway domestic workers or women arrested for prostitution. As a result, some victims are detained and deported without adequate protection. The government does not encourage victims to assist in the prosecution of their traffickers. The government should institute formal victim identification procedures, allow victims to refer themselves to the shelter, and also permit victims of sex trafficking access to the facility for protection.
Bahrain made no discernible progress in preventing trafficking this year. The government initiated no new campaigns to prevent trafficking, but continued to distribute multilingual brochures on workers’ rights and resources to incoming workers. The government should ensure that recruitment agencies and employers are aware of the rights of foreign workers to prevent their abuse.