GDN: PROTECTION of foreign workers tops the agenda of expats taking part in a special forum on the sidelines of the National Dialogue.
More than 50 expatriate clubs, associations and religious institutions are set to share their views after all of them received their official invites, it emerged yesterday.
The aim is to give non-Bahrainis a chance to share their vision on the best way forward.
"It is important for expatriate clubs and associations to share their views and concerns in this Dialogue," said spokesman Isa Abdul Rahman.
"We have started receiving some of the views, but have not yet fixed a specific date for the session."
The Pakistani Women's Association (PWA) has already submitted the issues that it wishes to raise during the Dialogue.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for all expatriate societies to take part in the Dialogue and it will help draw attention to all the issues that each society has," said PWA representative Nayla Asgharali.
The association has put together a list of points they wish to discuss, but the first issue is the security of migrant workers in Bahrain, said Ms Asgharali.
"After the incidents during the political crisis in Bahrain, the security of our migrant workers is the most important," she said.
"The second is to develop more co-ordination between the expatriate community, non-governmental organisations and the Social Development and Human Rights Ministry."
The PWA will also be joined by the Indian Ladies Association (ILA), Bahrain Irish Society and American Women's Association (AWA) during the talks.
"We have received the invitation to join the Dialogue and we will be taking part as we feel it is important to play a part in building Bahrain's future," said Bahrain Irish Society chairman James Kennedy.
The AWA will meet on Sunday to compile the society's list of issues. "We are preparing papers with the board members, which will focus on the four factors within the Dialogue," said AWA public relations officer Beverly West.
"For us, it is important to give the community a different view of what the AWA stands for as there is a lot of confusion around our association made up of American members and we want to clear up this confusion," she said.
ILA president Asha Srinivas confirmed the society's participation, but would not comment further.
The Indian Club's secretary-general Ulhas Karnavar said they had already received the invitation to share their views during the Dialogue.
"I will be representing the club and I have informed the organisers," he said.
The management from the Filipino Club, which has more than 4,000 members, also confirmed they completed the nomination process for their representative for the Dialogue.
"We have nominated a senior member from the club to represent the Filipino community in this historic Dialogue," said club president Imelda Silos.
An invite has also been sent to the Pakistan Club and its joint secretary Mohammed Ashfaq Butt told the GDN they have notified organisers of their intention to take part in the discussions.
"We had a meeting among club members and nominated our chairman Iftikhar Lone to share the community's views in the Dialogue."
The Mar Thoma Parish is also among the religious institutions that have been sent invitations to attend the expatriate session with other associations. "We received an invitation for the Dialogue through the National Evangelical Church," said parish secretary Thomas Joseph.
"Reverend Renji Varghese will represent our parish in the talks."
A Sri Lankan Club official said they would comment at a later date about their participation.
Meanwhile, the official Dialogue website www.nd.bh has a special interactive forum where expatriates can propose various issues or state their views.
Some of the issues raised so far in the forum include expatriates having representation in the boards of the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) and General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions. There were also views about the practice of confiscating passports and proposals to grant citizenship for long-staying expatriates.
Contributors have also suggested labour complaints be dealt by LMRA and not the Labour Ministry, to give time for expatriates to have one single body to deal with complaints and work visa issuance process.