MANILA -- At least 3,000 undocumented Filipino migrants in Bahrain are set to benefit from the recently launched flexi-visa program of the Bahraini government, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Thursday.
The program, which was launched on Monday, will now cover domestic workers who ran away from their employers before November 1, 2018.
In a statement Thursday, the agency, through Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Sarah Lou Arriola, also welcomed the inclusion of irregular Filipino workers in Manama's initiative.
“After a series of quiet negotiations and discussions, Bahrain’s Labor Marketing Regulatory Authority (LMRA) announced for the first time that those runaway domestic workers in the country will now be covered by the Flexi Visa program,” Arriola said.
"This is in line with the DFA’s efforts to seek pathways for regularization of our OFWs in implementation of the mandate of President Rodrigo Duterte to spare no effort to protect our nationals overseas,” she added.
Arriola said the regularization program, which is unique to Bahrain and a first in the Middle East, addresses the vulnerabilities associated with domestic work.
There were 120 Filipinos who were able to get their “blue cards” during the launch, with another 42 expected to get their visas on Tuesday.
According to the agency, there are now 267 previously undocumented Filipinos in Bahrain who have received their visas.
Through the Philippine Embassy in Manama, the DFA covered the visa cost and the first two monthly administrative fee for Filipinos who initially availed of the program.
Arriola expressed her appreciation to the Bahraini government for the initiative, saying it provides an avenue for Filipino workers to regularize their status.
“These reforms are to our mind one of the most progressive among the Gulf Cooperation Countries and demonstrates to the world that a receiving country and a sending country can cooperate to protect migrant rights to their mutual benefit,” she stated.
The flexi-visa is essentially a residence and work permit made available for the those who have no legal immigration status in Bahrain.
It is renewable every two years, which also covers the bearer's health insurance and return ticket once the contract period has ended, or when the migrant worker wants to return to his or her country. (PNA)