Bahrain Extends Grace Period for Amnesty Seekers

Gulf Daily News

Bahrain, Feb 4: Applications are still being accepted from illegal foreign workers hoping to leave the country under a general amnesty that officially ended on Thursday. However, each application will be judged on its own merit since the deadline has already expired, a senior official told the GDN.

The amnesty, which started last August, was originally due to finish at the end of December, but was extended for another month.

Now the General Directorate of Nationality, Passports and Residence (GDNPR) has decided to introduce a grace period for people previously unable to register for the amnesty. This means the door is still open for illegal expats to leave without facing punishment.

"We have decided to accept new applications from people who were not able to file the applications so far for various reasons," said GDNPR investigation director Lieutenant Colonel Ghazi Sinan.

"However, they will be processed according to the merit of each case."

He added that immigration staff were now processing all applications filed until the end of last month, saying as of Thursday, 13,410 illegal foreign workers had benefited from the amnesty.

Applications already processed include those of workers who illegally overstayed their work and visit visas.

Hundreds of housemaids also benefited from the amnesty, added Lt Col Sinan.

"We believe that all the illegal workers who benefited from the amnesty have left the country without paying penalties, according to the availability of flights to their respective countries," he said.

He added that there had been a significant drop in the number of applicants last month after an initial rush in August.

"Their number had dropped since December 31, when the amnesty was extended by the government for another month," he said.

"We received an average 200 to 250 amnesty seekers daily in December, but since January 1 their number dropped to about 50 a day.

"On January 31, the last day of the amnesty, we processed 122 applications. Our staff worked extra hours to process all applications."

However, he said the GDNPR was unable to clear some applications for various reasons.

Among those not allowed to leave were people whose passports had been used by other people to exit the country.

Lt Col Sinan revealed the investigation department was still scrutinising such applications to establish the identity of those left behind. He said some others still had court cases against them, but were being followed up in detail.

The amnesty began to allow illegal workers to either leave the country without paying penalties or to legalise their stay.

Thousands of illegal workers have legalised their stay during the amnesty after their employers submitted relevant documents to the Labour Ministry.

But Lt Col Sinan reiterated that people here illegally could still approach authorities if they have not yet done so.

"We are still flexible and are ready to help genuine amnesty seekers," he said.

"This is in line with our programme to support the government's labour market reforms."


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