Manama: Five lawmakers in Bahrain are pushing for the adoption of annual inspections of all labour accommodations to ensure they meet rigorous health and safety standards.
The MPs said that no labour accommodation could be declared fit without the licence delivered by the labour, health, municipality ministries and the civil defence.
The move by the lawmakers comes after 13 foreigner labourers, mainly from Bangladesh, were killed in a blaze at the downtown Manama building where they were crammed. Dozens had to leap to safety through the air conditioners windows or from the rooftop to adjacent buildings.
News of the fire on a Friday afternoon when most labourers were resting prompted several local labour and political formations to call for decisive action to address the issue of unfit and unsafe accommodations. The cabinet requested all concerned sides to work on ensuring there is no repeat of the tragedy.
“We have filed the proposal because of the blatant violations that occur in the labour accommodations in the country,” MPs Ali Al Zayed, Adel Al Mouawda, Abdul Halim Murad, Adnan Al Maliki and Khalid Al Malood said. “Whenever there is negligence, problems are bound to happen and tragedies become inevitable. There is an urgent need to meet and maintain safety standards. There is now chaos when it comes to regulating labour accommodations, and it needs to be tackled,” they said.
According to the MPs, the ministries had failed to carry out regular inspections of the buildings rented by Asian labourers.
“The ministries and official establishments have also failed to take the adequate decisions towards the greedy Mafiosi exploiting the free visa Asians staying illegally in the country,” they said.
“What happens now is a deluge of condemnations, but without anyone assuming their responsibilities, which means that the situation does not improve amid risks of a new tragedy. We are caught in an endless vicious circle,” they said.
Stringent action should be taken against owners and violators, the proposal suggested, as a means to deter abusers. “There should also be preventive measures that include organising awareness campaigns that will help put an end to the problematic issue of labour accommodation,” they said.
Foreigners make up slightly more than half of the total population in Bahrain. Most of them are unskilled labourers working in the construction sector and domestic helpers working in private homes.