Cablegate: Bahrain: Seventh Annual Tip Report

DE RUEHMK #0206/01 0641334
O 051334Z MAR 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 202745

MANAMA 00000206 001.2 OF 010

Sensitive but unclassified; please protect accordingly. Not
for Internet distribution.

1. (SBU) Post's response to reftel follows. Answers are
keyed to reftel questions.


2. (SBU) 27A. Bahrain is a country of destination for men
primarily as laborers and, to a much lesser extent, domestic
workers, and women primarily as domestic workers, and to a
lesser extent as laborers. There was no evidence that
trafficking of children to Bahrain occurred during the
reporting period. Trafficking does not occur within
Bahrain's borders and there is no territory outside of GOB
control. Numbers of those trafficked are unclear as systems
for recording and reporting such information are still being
developed. The Ministry of Labor stood up an automated
system in mid-2005 to track employer-reported "runaway"
workers, providing efficiency and enabling a wider base of
users access to the information. The Ministry reported that
2,979 workers were registered as runaways by their employers
in calendar year 2006, 700 of whom were domestic workers. An
inter-ministerial task force has discussed the establishment
of a database to record instances of trafficking in a more
comprehensive way, but work is still in progress. Sources of
information on trafficking and government steps to address
the problem are as follows: Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Social
Development, Ministry of Interior, Migrant Worker Protection
Society (MWPS), human rights NGOs, and the embassies of
source countries. Although the GOB sources are reliable in
the information they provide, systems are not yet in place to
provide extensive numerical and statistical data.
Information provided by foreign embassy sources is reliable,
but due to limited resources is often only numbers of
nationals repatriated and some anecdotal information about
individual cases. The two groups most at risk of being
trafficked are female household domestic workers of various
nationalities and women who traveled to Bahrain voluntarily
but are coerced into commercial sexual exploitation.

3. (SBU) 27B. There was some evidence of an increase in the
extent of trafficking from the previous period, primarily
from information given by repatriated Thai women, some of
whom were reportedly forced into prostitution after their
arrival. Repatriations to Thailand more than doubled in
calendar year 2006, to 385. Post has witnessed a significant
amount of political will from the GOB to address trafficking
issues, embodied most clearly in 2006 in its opening of a
government shelter for trafficking victims and its efforts to
pass anti-trafficking legislation. Primary source countries
for Bahrain were India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka,
Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines. To a
lesser extent, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Morocco and countries of
the former Soviet Union were also source countries.
Trafficking occurred primarily through recruitment agencies
in source countries and in Bahrain. Due to new Philippine
government minimum wage requirements, the press has recently

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reported that some recruitment agencies are looking to
increase recruitment in Vietnam and Eritrea. Victims
commonly related anecdotes about agencies in source countries
charging high administrative fees but describing desirable
employment and attractive wages in Bahrain. Upon arrival in
Bahrain, the reality that faced some new workers was a
changed contract, workplace and job; long, arduous hours;
lower salary than promised; and instant debts that had to be
repaid to the local recruiting agency and sponsor. The new
worker did not have much choice but to accept the new terms.

4. (SBU) 27B (cont.) Housing for workers was often
over-crowded, unsanitary and sometimes without air
conditioning, an unsafe situation during the extremely hot
summer months. Workers could be subject to periods of
non-payment or partial payment of their salaries. Domestic
workers often faced excessive hours, lack of freedom of
movement outside the home, verbal and physical abuse (and
occasional cases of rape, although rare), withholding of
documents such as passports, forced labor in the homes of
neighbors or relatives of the sponsor, and forced fasting
during Ramadan, even for non-Muslims. Domestics reported
having been locked up in recruitment agency offices while
they waited for initial deployment or redeployment in cases
of problems in the initial assignment. There were occasional
reports of false documents being used by expat workers,
usually to increase the apparent age of a young worker
(rarely under 18, but there were three or four reported cases
during the period), although it was unclear whether the
individual or the recruiter was responsible for initiating
the procurement of false documents. The press reported
occasional suicides among expatriate workers; there were four
in the first two months of 2007, although this was a higher
rate than is typical. Participation in the sex tourism
industry was mostly voluntary, although there were cases of
forced prostitution.

5. (SBU) 27C. From post's perspective there are no clear
limitations on the government's ability to address
trafficking. The government cites natural bureaucratic
delays in the passage of legislation and the realization of
other initiatives.

6. (SBU) 27D. The inter-ministerial task force meets
approximately quarterly to monitor and assess GOB progress on
different fronts. Reporting on progress continues to be a
weakness for the GOB. The Ministry of Labor reported labor
statistics on a more regular basis in the press, but few
other ministries had similar reporting mechanisms. The head
of the anti-trafficking task force, MFA Assistant Under
Secretary for Coordination and Follow-up Shaikh Abdul Aziz

Bin Mubarak Al Khalifa participated in anti-trafficking
training events in which he called attention to the problem
of trafficking and discussed measures the government is
taking to address the issue. He has made similar comments to
the press. As the center of anti-trafficking activity, post
has received regular support from the MFA to collect
information on government efforts and to identify
participants for training activities. The Ministry of
Justice has also supported efforts to involve prosecutors and
judges in training activities.


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7. (SBU) 28A. The GOB acknowledges at the highest levels
that trafficking is a problem, and there exists the political
will to address it. Senior government officials participated
in training events about trafficking to draw attention to the
problem and create momentum to work against it.

8. (SBU) 28B. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has the lead
in anti-trafficking efforts with Shaikh Abdul Aziz as the
head of the inter-ministerial task force. Other government
agencies involved on the task force are as follows: Ministry
of Justice, the Attorney General's office (Public
Prosecution), Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Cabinet
Affairs, Ministry of Social Development, and the Capital

9. (SBU) 28C. Education efforts to date have focused
primarily on educating new workers. There were no new
campaigns initiated during the reporting period.
Multi-lingual printed information describing a worker's
rights and providing embassy contact information was given to
workers arriving at the airport, at health centers where each
new worker is required to have a physical exam, at embassies,
and at the Ministry of Labor. In addition, contact
information for a trafficking hotline was carried daily in
the English-language newspaper, the Gulf Daily News. During
2006, the trafficking hotline office received 38 calls, 12 of
which were trafficking related and the others were legal
inquiries from foreign workers. GOB officials have voiced
the need for additional outreach after anti-trafficking
legislation is passed.

10. (SBU) 28D. The GOB has jointly conducted
anti-trafficking workshops and trainings with NGOs who have
received U.S. funding for their activities. GOB officials,
judges, prosecutors, and attorneys have participated in the

11. (SBU) 28E. There was some official coordination between
the GOB and civil society. The GOB requested the director of
a non-governmental domestic violence center to manage the new
government shelter. Through its five-year existence, the
Migrant Worker Protection Society (MWPS) has developed an
adequate network to assist victims. The Ministry of Interior
occasionally contacted the MWPS when the police identified
victims who needed assistance. Embassies also contacted MWPS
for assistance with victims of abuse. The MWPS received no
GOB funding although Bahraini officials, in particular the
MFA's Shaikh Abdul Aziz, have supported MWPS fundraising
efforts. Recently the Royal Society of St. George pledged to
fund the rent for the MWPS shelter for one year. The Indian
Women's Association similarly did so for 2006. In 2006 MWPS
assisted 120 workers, almost exclusively female domestic
workers, and has had 184 cases since it began keeping records
in April 2005. According to MWPS representatives, none/none
of the women whom they have sheltered to date claimed to be
victims of rape, although many were victims of physical abuse.

12. (SBU) 28F. There was no apparent system for monitoring
patterns for evidence of trafficking. There was no clear
screening system at Bahrain International Airport, the

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primary port of entry for expatriate workers and visitors.
Bahrain's sole border crossing is the causeway between
Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The press carried occasional
reports of alien smuggling into Saudi Arabia across the
causeway, but cases were not common.

13. (SBU) 28G. Per para 8, the inter-ministerial task
force, led by the MFA's Shaikh Abdul Aziz, coordinates GOB
action. The GOB does not have a public corruption task
force. Issues of corruption are addressed publicly by
periodic government audit reports, Members of Parliament in
the Council of Representatives, and by an NGO, the Bahrain
Transparency Society.

14. (SBU) 28H. Member ministries of the anti-trafficking
task force formulated a national plan of action that includes
legislation, a shelter, a trafficking database, phone
hotlines, and outreach, among other items. NGOs were not
consulted in the process. The plan is an internal document
and has not been made public in its official form.

Investigation and Prosecution of Traffickers

15. (SBU) 29A. Bahrain has not yet passed anti-trafficking
legislation. Draft legislation has been completed and is
reportedly being prepared to be sent to parliament by the
Cabinet. The draft was circulated to other Gulf Cooperation
Council (GCC) countries subsequent to their request that
Bahrain take the lead on drafting model anti-trafficking
legislation. Present Bahraini laws are not adequate to cover
the full scope of trafficking, but cases involving
trafficking have been prosecuted under forced labor,
unjustifiable holding of salary, unlawful holding of an
employee's passport, assault, and forced prostitution.
USG-funded programs provided expert consultation to the
Ministry of Justice for the drafting of the proposed

16. (SBU) 29B. Anyone found guilty of sexual exploitation
is subject to imprisonment of between two and seven years.
If the victim is under 18 years of age, the imprisonment
increases to between three and ten years.

17. (SBU) 29C. Employers found guilty of imposing forced
labor on employees are subject to imprisonment of up to ten
years and/or a fine. Currently there is no law providing for
criminal punishment of recruiters in source countries.
Although it is unlawful to confiscate a worker's passport, it
is a common practice. Employers typically return the
passport when presented with a court order and no punishment
is pursued. In the case of withholding wages, employers will
typically only pay fully after a court ruling against them,
which is rare because the plaintiff cannot afford
representation nor endure lengthy court cases. Most often
cases are settled out of court for lesser amounts.

18. (SBU) 29D. Under current law, rape of a female is
punishable by a sentence of up to ten years in prison, and
rape of a male can result in imprisonment of up to seven
years unless the male victim is under 17 years of age, in
which case the perpetrator can be imprisoned up to ten years.

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Sex trafficking is not covered under current law.

19. (SBU) 29E. Under current laws, both the activities of
prostitutes and those soliciting prostitution are
criminalized. The activities of handlers of prostitutes,
such as pimps or brothel owners/operators, are also
criminalized. In calendar year 2005, the most recent
statistics that were available, the courts won 20
prostitution related cases. Sentences for individuals who
"encouraged the practice of prostitution" varied between ten
days and two years in prison. Sentences for those who
"managed an establishment for the practice of prostitution,"
ranged from three months to three years in prison.

20. (SBU) 29F. Because "trafficking" is not yet addressed
directly by Bahraini law, there have been no convictions for
trafficking. However, the GOB has prosecuted aspects of
trafficking cases under current laws such as those listed in
para 15. The Ministry of Labor employs mediation techniques
to resolve complaints before they rise to the level of legal
action. Reportedly 56% of 3062 labor complaint cases were
resolved through mediation. The remaining cases were
forwarded to the Public Prosecutor's Office for resolution
through the courts. See para 17 on confiscation of passports
and withholding of wages.

21. (SBU) 29G. Recruitment agencies in Bahrain and in
source countries were primarily responsible for trafficking
in Bahrain. Sponsors of expatriate workers who arbitrarily
changed terms of worker contracts and confiscated passports
were also responsible for trafficking. Based on press
reports of arrests for prostitution, small crime groups ran
prostitution rings. Most often prostitutes worked
voluntarily, but in some cases there was evidence of forced
prostitution. The Ministry of Labor employed labor
inspectors to focus on recruitment agencies. During the
reporting period 64 recruitment agencies were inspected, and
none were closed for violations. Two of those which were
closed in the previous reporting period were allowed to
reopen after adequately addressing the violations.

22. (SBU) 29H. The Ministry of Labor employs approximately
45 labor inspectors who initiate inspections subsequent to a
worker complaint, following an employer request, and also
randomly. Labor inspectors inspect labor sites to find and
deport illegal workers and punish their sponsors. Sponsors
are liable for deportation expenses and fines of up to 1000
dinars ($2,650) for each illegal worker. Covert police
operations were permitted by Bahraini law and were used
primarily to break prostitution rings.

23. (SBU) 29I. A module devoted to trafficking was included
in the eight-week training course on international law given
to newly appointed public prosecutors. The GOB has
encouraged its officials to participate in trafficking
related programs on how to recognize, investigate, and
prosecute instances of trafficking. The USG funded the
International Organization for Migration (IOM) to conduct a
two-week training course in January 2007 for law enforcement
officers (shelter staff and Ministry of Labor personnel also
attended). The USG also provided funding for international
trafficking law expert Dr. Mohamed Mattar from The Protection
Project at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced

MANAMA 00000206 006.2 OF 010

International Studies and Frank Elbers from Human Rights
Education Associates to conduct a series of workshops in
February 2007 for government officials, prosecutors,
attorneys, employers, and civil society groups.

24. (SBU) 29J. Post is not aware of any cooperative
international investigations or prosecutions of trafficking
cases. Embassies of source countries initially coordinate
with the Ministry of Labor to look into alleged trafficking
cases. In the reporting period the Ministry of Labor formed
a committee led by the Under Secretary that met quarterly
with the ambassadors of source countries to raise issues of
concern. A task force from this committee led by the
Director of Labor Relations followed up on individual cases
with respective labor attaches.

25. (SBU) 29K. There are no known trafficking-related
extradition requests filed with the GOB. Bahrain is party to
a number of bilateral extradition treaties and some
multinational arrangements, including the Arab Agreement to
Combat Trans-Arab Organized Crime and the Arab Agreement to
Combat Terrorism.

26. (SBU) 29L. There is no firm evidence of government
involvement in or tolerance of trafficking. There are
occasional reports of prominent members of the Bahraini
community who received authorization to sponsor more
expatriate workers than they could reasonably employ. Some
reportedly engaged in the illegal practice of "selling" the
visa to the worker for a fee of up to more than 1000 dinars
($2650), who was then free to look for employment secretly
and illegally on the open market, called "casual labor."
Employers who hired these workers were subject to fines if
caught. However, since they hired these workers for less
than workers hired through recruitment agencies, some
accepted the risk. The Ministry of Labor's system of
accountability required that if a laborer left his/her
sponsor, the sponsor was required to report the laborer as a
"runaway" and to pay a 100 dinar ($265) deposit, refundable
upon repatriation of the worker. (According to Ministry of
Labor figures, there were 2,979 runaways reported in 2006 and
640 casual laborers were caught and referred to immigration
authorities for deportation.) Reportedly, after a "casual"
worker's two year work permit validity expired, the worker
would go back to the original sponsor to "renew" his work
permit by "buying" the visa again from the sponsor for a
similar sum. The Ministry of Labor reported that in 2006
there was one case in which one Bahraini and one expatriate
were arrested and charged with this kind of illicit activity.

27. (SBU) 29M. No government officials have been prosecuted
for involvement in trafficking or trafficking-related

28. (SBU) 29N. Bahrain does not have an identified child
sex tourism problem.

29. (SBU) 29O. Bahrain has signed and ratified ILO
Conventions 29, 105 and 182, in addition to the Optional
Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In
March 2004, the MFA announced Bahrain's accession to the UN
Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and the
Protocols to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in

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Persons, especially Women and Children.

Protection and Assistance to Victims

30. (SBU) 30A. The GOB opened a government shelter for the
first time in November 2006 to provide shelter, basic medical
care, psychological, and legal services for female victims of
trafficking and domestic abuse. The GOB chose the director
of a non-government counseling center for victims of domestic
violence, who is a clinical psychologist by training, to run
the shelter. Two separate wings in the shelter accommodate
the respective victims. In its current room configuration,
the shelter can accommodate approximately 80 women and can
expand in the future if necessary. The shelter has a
library, an exercise facility and a dining room for meals.
Police are instructed not to return an abuse victim to her
sponsor but to refer the case to the shelter. According to
the shelter director, to date the shelter has assisted seven
women, five of whom were expatriate domestic workers, and the
remaining two were Bahraini victims of domestic abuse. The
police referred three of the five cases to the shelter, the
Public Prosecution referred one case, and MWPS contacted the
shelter directly in the fifth case. One of the five women
showed signs of physical abuse. The Ministry of Labor
operates a trafficking hotline during business hours. The
budget for the hotline was augmented to expand the service to
24 hours, but to date longer hours of service have not been
offered. The MOL also provided labor dispute mediation
services and worked with immigration authorities to provide
temporary residency when necessary until the dispute was

31. (SBU) 30B. Although it permits NGOs that serve migrant
workers to operate freely in Bahrain, the GOB does not
provide funding for services to victims.

32. (SBU) 30C. Post is not aware of a formal system of
victim identification. The director of the shelter consulted
with law enforcement officials at the Ministry of Interior to
work through identification and referral protocols. In most
cases victims were given temporary shelter by the police
while the case underwent a preliminary investigation. In
cases of physical, sexual, or psychological abuse, the police
referred the case to the shelter. In cases where there was
an indication of misconduct on the part of the expatriate
worker, the worker was held in detention before being

33. (SBU) 30D. Trafficking victims were not fined or
imprisoned unless they were guilty of an immigration
violation or suspected of a crime such as theft or
prostitution. Workers who were no longer employed by their
sponsor, but who pursued work illegally as casual laborers,
were detained while being processed for deportation.
According to the Ministry of Labor, attempts were made not to
detain workers for longer than 48 hours, but detention
lengths reportedly varied.

34. (SBU) 30E. Although the GOB may not actively encourage
workers to pursue legal action against employers,it does not
discourage the initiation of such leal action. The GOB

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reportedly facilitates contact with lawyers, but NGOs report
that workers rarely have the resources to hire quality
attorneys. Immigration officials often adjust residence
requirements and sponsorship enabling expatriate victims to
work for employers other than their sponsors in order to
support themselves during the legal process. MWPS
representatives reported that they no longer encouraged
victims of abuse to seek restitution through the court system
due to the length of court cases. They have experienced
higher levels of success working in conjunction with
respective embassy staffs to negotiate with sponsors.

35. (SBU) 30F. The government shelter is primarily intended
to care for victims as they prepare to return home to their
country. Post was not aware of cases in which victims
requested to be allowed to work for another sponsor. The
MWPS shelter also cared for victims until they are able to
return home. The Philippine Embassy has its own shelter and
a robust program of protecting Philippine victims of abuse;
the shelter averaged approximately 60 victims seeking refuge
monthly from an estimated 8,000 Philippine domestic workers
in Bahrain. A Philippine Embassy official estimated that
approximately ten percent of shelter occupants reported
having been a victim of some type of sexual abuse, including
sexual harassment. This same official estimated that nearly
90 percent of the shelter cases showed some evidence of
trafficking. No other embassy had its own shelter. The
Philippine Embassy imposed a new minimum monthly wage of 150
dinars ($400) for all employers hiring Philippine workers and
approved all contracts before the worker arrived in Bahrain.
Anecdotal evidence revealed that in spite of the contract,
some employers paid their workers less than the minimum
stated in the contract, sometimes as low as $130 (under the
old minimum of $200 monthly).

36. (SBU) 30G. The GOB does not regularly provide
specialized training for government officials, including its
diplomats in other countries. U.S. government contractor
Education Development Center held a series of workshops in
February 2007 conducted by well-known trafficking law expert
Dr. Mohamed Mattar for civil society groups, employers, legal
professionals, union officials and government officials. As
a result of the workshops, four civil society groups (MWPS,
Bahrain Human Rights Society, the General Federation of
Bahrain Trade Unions, and the Women's Union) decided to
coordinate their efforts to develop an anti-trafficking
campaign for public awareness and outreach.

37. (SBU) 30H. Post is not aware that any Bahraini
nationals were victims of trafficking during the reporting

38. (SBU) 30I. No international NGOs currently work in
Bahrain. The GOB has not developed a mechanism by which
international organizations are able to register to work in
Bahrain. During the reporting period, the GOB hosted IOM's
Director General Brunson McKinley to discuss future

TIP Hero

MANAMA 00000206 009.2 OF 010

39. (SBU) Marietta Dias is the face of the Migrant Worker
Protection Society (MWPS). Although she is not in the
elected leadership of MWPS, Marietta works tirelessly for the
rights of expatriate workers in Bahrain, especially for
female domestic workers. She receives calls for help at all
hours of the day and night and jumps to assist anyone who
needs a helping hand. Marietta, originally from India, has
lived in Bahrain for more than 20 years and has witnessed the
difficulties of life for expatriate workers for years. She
is the one who journalists contact when reporting on tragic
stories of abused domestic workers and laborers. When
problems arise for expatriate workers, one can be assured
that Marietta will be out in front talking about the
injustices they face from people who do not always treat them
with respect and dignity. Although she does not have formal
training in counseling or social work, through her caring
nature and heartfelt compassion she has given hope to many
damaged lives.

40. (SBU) When a group of individuals gathered in 2001 to
discuss the possibilities of forming a group to assist
migrant workers in need, Marietta was a moving force. Even
though the group had nearly no financial backing, they
committed to do whatever they could, including reaching out
to well-placed members of Bahraini and expatriate society to
support their initiative. Ever since, Marietta has never
stopped speaking out on behalf of workers, and largely due to
her efforts, the reputation of MWPS has grown. Over the
years financial support from individuals and other NGOs has
also grown, enabling MWPS to open a three-bedroom apartment
as a shelter for victims of trafficking in April 2005. Since
then MWPS has assisted 184 workers, the vast majority of them
female domestic workers, and Marietta has been involved with
nearly every one of them. She has spent countless hours at
the offices of law enforcement officials, immigration
officials, and detention center officials lobbying for
workers who do not speak English and do not have anyone to
speak for them, except Marietta. Marietta personally works
through their cases until they are ready to return home.
Marietta is a shining star presenting hope to trafficking
victims in Bahrain.

Best Practices

41. (SBU) A best practice that the GOB has employed is the
formation of the interministerial task force. Because the
issues related to trafficking overlap the responsibilities of
several ministries, it is critical that there be staff in
each of these ministries assigned to coordinate these
actions, and the GOB has recognized this necessity. Members
of the task force have participated in various workshops on
trafficking and as ministry points of contact serve to spread
information on trafficking within their respective ministries.

Trafficking POC

42. (SBU) Post POC is Poloff Mike Mussi (office: 973 1724
2834, fax: 973 1727 3011). Hours spent on the report are as
follows: FS-04 officer, 60 hours; FS-02 officer, 2 hours;

MANAMA 00000206 010.2 OF 010

FS-01 officer, 2 hours.

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