Wine, Work and the Law

Wine: It’s Tuesday and I’ve a hangover despite last night being a “school night” as a result of an impromptu evening together with some friends in our apartment. I consumed more white wine than was good for me! One of our bottles of lovely chilled Pouilly-Vinzelles from the Bahrain airport duty free was shared then followed by some of our staple white: South African Footprint (large wine box in the fridge). The wine choices here are not huge so you often find yourself confronted by the same ones you drink at home on most restaurant wine lists, the result of a limited number of importers. Anyway I digress…

Work: Talk last night turned to the complexity of labour and immigration law as one of our party has recently been made redundant by his employer. Now you would think that it was fortunate that his wife is still working meaning they can remain in Bahrain while their youngest is still at school. Not necessarily. The first problem they face is that the former employer did not cancel his work visa in a timely fashion (for which the company is being fined). The Bahraini authorities want him to hand over his passport together with proof of a ticket to leave the country. They will then hand back his passport at the airport when he flies out. However it is unlikely that the work visa in his passport will be cancelled via this process. Without one visa being cancelled you cannot be issued another meaning you cannot return to the country.

Law: The second puzzle to solve is that although children can live in Bahrain with their working mother, the law doesn’t envisage an unemployed or retired husband doing so. If a wife has a work visa the husband cannot live here permanently only visit on a three month tourist visa whereas if the husband has a work visa the wife is welcome to come permanently as their spouse.

There has been in recent months an amnesty for “illegal” ex-pats which has been widely covered in the papers here. The government together with the embassies has been encouraging them to come forward, pay their fines and be repatriated through an Easy Exit Scheme. These are mostly from the Indian sub-continent and probably came orginally with sponsorship from an employer but then moved on to another road project, shop, restaurant or hotel without the required LMRA paperwork being completed. Or they simply overstayed their original tourist visa and found work. Whatever the reason the immigration and labour organisations here are getting tougher on all foreigners and their employers to ensure they comply with the existing laws.

Yesterday’s Gulf Daily News had a comment column which had echoes of the UK. “Public opinion” here feels that too many Bahraini’s are unemployed (officially 3.5% in March 2010) and that same opinion has it that there are too many foreign workers (an estimated half a million ex-pats of all nationalities live here). The argument as positioned in the GDNs pages is that foreign workers are more willing to do the manual work for lower pay. Talk in the letters page is of minimum wages, caps on numbers of foreign workers….Sound familiar?