Manama: Rights activists yesterday hoped that a workshop on labour trafficking in Bahrain next week would help ensure the legal protection of foreign workers whose rights are often abused.

"The training workshop on documenting, reporting and combating exploitative labour and labour trafficking on February 19-20 will be a new opportunity to discuss international labour standards while assessing the situation of expatriate workers in Bahrain and reviewing ways to promote an ethical policy against exploitation," Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) President Sabika Al Najjar told Gulf News.

Bahrain Federation of Trade Unions and John Hopkins Education Development Centre will also be involved in the two-day meeting, she said.

"The workshop will focus on international labour standards and labour trafficking, reporting exploitative labour and labour trafficking, policy and regulatory frameworks for combating exploitative labour and labour trafficking and advocacy and campaigning around the prevention of exploitative labour and labour trafficking," Al Najjar said.

Lack of legislation

Around 270,000 foreigners out of total population of 710,000 live in Bahrain, whose economy depends heavily on them. But the lack of comprehensive legislation on foreign workers, mainly from Asia, who come to Bahrain to work as domestic servants and in the construction industry often means that they have to put up with physical abuse, sexual harassment, non-payment or delay in payment of salary and long hours of work.

"We want to use the workshop to increase awareness, knowledge and understanding of the issue of exploitative labour and labour trafficking.

"The training will also include ways to build advocacy and campaigning around the prevention of labour trafficking, steps and tools to develop a basic advocacy plan and the use of the media to highlight the issue," BHRS Vice-President Abdullah Al Durazi said.

Last month, Labour Minister Majid Al Alawi said that Bahrain would soon amend its 1976 labour law to include clauses on foreign domestic workers with the aim of ensuring them protection.

In December 2003, the government announced the creation of a database to track human trafficking and abuses and pledged to develop legislation to meet international standards and to have the issue of human trafficking addressed by law.