Titus Filio Contributor

Mandatory health checks must adhere to the standards of international human rights to stamp out discrimination and malpractice which include the outright deportation of foreigners who fail the health tests, cited a report on the state of health tests for foreign workers in Bahrain. The report on Mandatory Testing in Bahrain-State of Health of Migrants 2007 was done as a collaboration between the now defunct Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Coordination of Action Reearch on AIDS and Mobility (CARAM). The report cited that in one health centre alone, the Al Razi Health Centre, over 87,000 migrant workers were tested in 2006, meaning an average of 350 workers are tested per weekday. But problematic issues arose. The report stated that some workers did not even know what the health checks covered. Other problems included the lack of qualified medical personnel and the language barrier between the health examiner and the foreign worker. Other foreign workers who lacked documentation were also found to have skipped the mandatory health tests. The report was collated from interviews and surveys done by the BCHR and the CARAM. “Bahrain, as one of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member countries, follows the mandatory health testing of migrant workers in line with the rules and regulations of the Gulf Approved Medical Centres Association (GAMCA),” the report stated. “Upon arrival, all construction workers and manual labourers are referred to the government’s centralised health facility for migrant workers, Al Razi Health Centre, which is a GAMCA centre,” it stated. “Construction workers, semi-skilled workers and the foreign housemaids remain the most vulnerable group in the country. They need to know and understand what and why the tests are being done,” said Nabeel Rajab, member of the BCHR. GAMCA guidelines indicate that migrant workers should give their consent by signing an English-Arabic form on their medical report. However, this form cannot be understood or filled out by migrant workers who are illiterate. Moreover, many workers stated that no consent or signature was taken from them at the time of testing, and several interviewees indicated that it was their sponsor who had signed the consent form for their test. The findings confirmed that there is an inconsistency between the prescribed practices and the actual experience of migrants undergoing testing in these centres. “The procedures must be cleared to ensure that the checks are done for the benefit of the migrant workers,” Rajab said. The report cited Bahrain’s total population at 707,160 which includes 268, 951 expatriates (38 per cent). Fifty per cent of the country’s workforce are expatriates. A major proportion of the migrant worker population comes from India, but there are also significant numbers coming from Bangladesh, the Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nepal, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and a number of countries in Eastern Europe. Workers from these countries mainly provide the workforce for 3-D jobs (work that is regarded as dirty, dangerous and demanding), or work in the entertainment sector. Bahrain also receives a smaller number of expatriate workers from the United States, Australia, South Africa and Western Europe,

Article from: Bahrain Tribune Newspaper- www.BahrainTribune.com