Change in Bahrain traffic laws causing expat consternation

Published:  19 Jun at 6 PM
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Tagged: Jobs
Expats in Bahrain are being driven crazy by the country’s potential new laws preventing foreigners from driving unless their jobs require them to do so.

New arrivals in the country are allowed three months’ motoring mobility before they are forced to get a local driving license. Bahrain’s population of 1.2 million includes 675,000 expats, most of whom would be left without means to get around should the law be passed.

The issue has divided the community, with many expat workers wondering how they will be able to continue to support their families if they’re prohibited from driving to work. Public transport in the small country is worse than poor, and many expats live outside the main conurbations.

Migrant organisations are also up in arms, with Marietta Dias from the Migrant Workers’ Protection Society stating that all expats are guests in Bahrain and should be treated as such by the authorities. Protests and complaints have flooded in to other expat support groups as well.

Bahraini lawyers are concerned that the proposed changes may be in breach expats’ human rights as well as being unconstitutional, and those affected are panicking due to the possibility of their driving licenses being withdrawn. Betsy Mathieson from the Bahrain Federation of Expatriate Associations is totally against the proposal as it would cause hardship for families as well as individual drivers.

The new law was inserted into a bill already before the Bahraini parliament, spurred on by the belief that a majority of traffic violations are down to expat drivers. MPs believe that, should expats be banned from driving, instances of traffic violation and accidents will fall dramatically.

The clause contains other controversial changes, including draconian penalties such as six months’ jail for running a red light. Due to be passed by the autumn, the potential new laws have been on the cards for seven years before being dusted down and causing expat consternation.

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