By Hussain Ali
Manama, Apr 29 (efe-epa).- In Bahrain and other Gulf countries, thousands of expatriate workers, mainly from the Indian subcontinent and South East Asia, are finding themselves between a rock and hard place, the impossible equation of being illegal and living safely.
It is either to work and contract the coronavirus or to abstain from working and not get paid, to have medical care and take the risk of being arrested and deported or to skip the medical support to continue working. There is no single easy decision for an illegal, foreign worker in Bahrain.
Like its neighboring Gulf states, Bahraini authorities have adopted strict quarantine and social distancing measures focused on expat workers, a community where the coronavirus has spread quickly.
Since reporting Covid-19 cases in February, Bahrain has registered over 2,800 infections; nearly 1,000 of the infected are foreign workers.
Amid the economic slowdown, the Bahraini government did not follow in the footsteps of fellow Gulf countries such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia or United Arab of Emirates which carried out large-scale deportations.
However, hundreds of expat workers have been repatriated.
For decades, Bahrain and fellow Gulf countries have depended on low-waged expat workers in industry, construction and retail.
Neighboring Gulf counties like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar had attracted millions more following oil discoveries, but they had lagged on protecting migrant workers’ rights.
The workers’ home countries looked the other way amid reports deteriorating living workers conditions in favor of the steady flow of monthly salary transfers being injected into their economies.