The government made modest efforts to protect victims, but did not report how many victims it identified; in 2015, it identified 90 trafficking victims. The government used standard procedures to identify potential trafficking victims. The government reported 1,523 individuals of various nationalities and professions—predominantly women—received assistance from the LMRA’s Expatriate Protection Unit (EPU), which provided shelter to 392 for an average of 39 days; among this population, 25 were trafficking victims. Other protective provisions included food, clothing, medical care, religious and psycho-social support, transportation, legal counsel, familial reunification, translation assistance, and information on labor rights. The EPU maintained onsite offices for medical and mental health professionals and a representative from the police anti-trafficking unit, and provided a training room for training shelter residents and a conference space for the national anti-trafficking committee. Several embassies of labor-sending countries reported they temporarily housed some victims who refused to go to the EPU or were unable to reach it. The EPU received referrals from diverse sources, including the police, government offices, NGOs, health services, and embassies. During the reporting period, the government, in cooperation with two international organizations, developed a national referral mechanism to streamline the proactive identification of potential trafficking victims, ensure proper documentation of cases, accurately refer cases to the MOI anti-trafficking division and public prosecutor’s office for an official determination as a trafficking case, and provide sufficient protections to victims until case resolution or voluntary return to their respective countries of origin. The government disseminated the 30-page, dual English-Arabic mechanism to relevant civil society and government stakeholders.
Labor Law No. 36 of 2012 provides some protections for domestic workers, requiring employers to provide a labor contract specifying working hours, annual leave, and bonuses, and to pay workers at least monthly; the government did not report any efforts to implement the law. The LMRA was responsible for coordinating with other relevant ministries, referring trafficking cases for prosecution, and conducting interviews to officially identify victims in collaboration with respective embassies. Upon receiving claims of abuse from domestic workers who fled employers, some police stations reportedly investigated immediately, while others sometimes delayed launching an investigation. Inspection agencies cited difficulties conducting unannounced inspections of domestic worker accommodations and investigating allegations of abuse in the absence of an official complaint, which may have left some victims at risk of exploitation and without protective provisions. According to a local NGO, police referred some victims to its shelter; however, police implementation of standardized procedures to identify victims remained inconsistent across different stations. Many law enforcement officials in Bahrain did not systematically or proactively identify victims among vulnerable groups, such as domestic workers who fled abusive employers or women arrested for prostitution. There were no reports victims were punished for crimes committed as a direct result of their being subjected to trafficking; nonetheless, victims likely remained unidentified in the law enforcement system.
NGOs reported workers who entered the country illegally or under pretenses often did not benefit from Bahraini legal protections. Some migrant workers who fled abusive situations chose not to contact police to report the abuse due to being a “free visa” holder. Cases could be complex or expensive to resolve, and workers who could not do so were sometimes deported. Bahraini officials provided full assistance to trafficking victims regardless of their willingness to participate in investigations and court proceedings of their traffickers. The government reported it informed all victims of full evaluation of the case and their legal right to restitution in the event of a conviction. Victims were permitted to testify in person, via written correspondence, video recording, a closed-circuit live video, or in private. The labor law allows foreign workers to change sponsors during investigations and court proceedings; however, among individuals residing temporarily at the shelter only five domestic workers transferred employment during the year. Workers rarely filed complaints against employers due to distrust of the legal system, protracted court processes, inability to afford legal representation, lack of interpretation and translation services, concern over potential loss of residence permits during proceedings, and fear of additional maltreatment due to employer reprisal. The government funded the repatriation of an unknown number of third country nationals to their countries of origin during the reporting period.