10/05/2007, 00.00
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Manama wants to expel foreign workers after six years

Tiny state’s labour minister says his proposal is motivated by the high number of expatriates and international treaties that might require equal treatment in health care, education, housing and especially citizenship for both natives and foreigners.

Manama (AsiaNews) – Gulf States might end up expelling foreigner workers after six years if a proposal being put forwards by Bahrain is accepted. The Bahrain Labour Minister Majeed al-Alawi has denied however that he intends to present it to the next Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) meeting scheduled for Doha (Qatar) in December. If implemented it would affect an estimated 13 million expatriate workers living in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

“The majority of foreign manpower in the region comes from different cultural and social backgrounds that cannot assimilate or adapt to the local cultures,” al-Alawi told the Gulf Daily News in an interview.

“In some areas of the Gulf, you can’t tell whether you are in an Arab Muslim country or in an Asian district. We can’t call this diversity and no nation on earth could accept the erosion of its culture on its own land,” he said.

The Bahraini minister is worried by the fact that under international labour treaties and global conventions expatriate workers and their families will be entitled to housing, education and health services and could also claim nationality after five years' residency.

Expatriates account for around 80 per cent of the population of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, while in Kuwait they are roughly 60 per cent. In Bahrain they are about 40 per cent.

However, since the proposed six-year residence cap on expatriate workers in the Gulf was unexpectedly off the table for next month's GCC Summit in Doha, Minister al-Alawi decided to re-launch his proposal.

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