HRC-led research released by BIICL finds international reputation and economic growth as the main determinants in Bahrain’s effort to tackle human trafficking 

London, September 2022

The findings published by the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL) and funded by the United States Government identified and sequenced the determinants influencing the Bahrain Government’s anti-trafficking efforts. HRC also conducted a similar study with BIICL in Algeria. 

The study found that the government of Bahrain has taken several notable actions to eliminate trafficking. In 2015, it established the Expat Protection Centre (EPC) to identify, support and follow up on the cases of victims of trafficking in Bahrain. In 2016, it set up the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) to identify and support victims of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) – or workers in exploitative situations – in the Kingdom of Bahrain and ensure that they receive the appropriate protection and support. 

Such measures amplified Bahrain’s commitment in tackling human trafficking, propelling it to become the first and only country in the Middle East and North Africa to attain a Tier 1 on the US TIP Report, a position it has maintained in all subsequent reports. The government of Bahrain is determined to maintain its position as a regional leader in counter-trafficking efforts and has made further efforts to align itself with international legal frameworks such as the Palermo Protocols with the help of international organisations.

Economic compulsions arising from increased public debts were the key negative factor for the government’s limited response to combat forced labour. However, on a positive note owing to the steady flow of migrants into the country, Bahrain has signed bilateral agreements with source countries like India, the Philippines and Nepal.   

The government of Bahrain has perused the policy of conflating all human trafficking with sex trafficking and prioritised action against trafficking for sexual exploitation. The report notes that acting against sex work allows Bahrain to align with the broader Islamic regional identity. Research found that these efforts helped Bahrain to enhance its global reputation on the anti-trafficking front. 

Regarding perpetrator profiles, the study underlined that Bangladeshi nationals face disproportionate government responses and are penalised more strongly than other nationalities due to racial stereotyping.

During the Covid 19 pandemic, the government of Bahrain took several steps to reduce the vulnerability of migrant workers. The government announced schemes like waiving fees for issuing and renewing work permits. The Flexi permit allowed the migrants to live freely in the country in any non-specialised occupation without a sponsor.

The other determinants considered are determinants by type of response such as prosecution, protection, prevention, and partnership; forms of exploitation, kinds of response; trafficked persons’ profile; perpetrators’ profile.

Despite the limitation in securing interviews with government officials and the lack of informative literature, HRC and its researchers took several steps to explore the broad range of possible determinants for anti-trafficking efforts in order to conduct this research.

Read the full report here.

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