Three more workers were killed in a fatal fire accident in Bahrain last Friday.
Thirteen workers had also died in a deadly blaze in January last year – in a building that is just right across this one.
And can we forget the sixteen workers who died in a horrifying fire at a labour camp in Gudaibiya in 2006?
What do all these fire-accidents in labour camps tell us?
Whose fault is it that deaths like these keep occurring?
Is there no fear among its residents that fire-hazards are imminent in places that have no safety checks?
Is there no government-control on landlords, who flout rules and ignore maintenance and safety standards?
Shouldn’t these landlords be actually tried for manslaughter for their negligence, and their inability to provide safe accommodation to their tenants?
Just look at the facts. This year’s and the last year’s accidents actually occurred in the same area of Manama suq known as Bengali Gali.
It has several small labour camps. And many of them – even though they are run-down and dilapidated – still house thousands of low income workers of different nationalities.
And it is heart-rending to note the appalling conditions in which many of these workers are kept.
All these three Bangladeshi men who died in the Al Mukharqa buidling on Friday, Mosharaf Hossain, Jalal Gafur Miah and Dulal Sidduqurahman, were related to one-another and were the sole bread winners of their families, according to Mohammed Islam, the Bangladesh Embassy Counsellor (Labour Affairs).
It has come to light that these workers were not legal residents in the country, which compounds the matters even more; and repatriation of their bodies becomes even more difficult.
Human lives are precious, irrespective of the legal situations, and those in authority and those with ability must do everything they can to protect and save life.
I believe that these tragic incidents display many deficiencies – the sheer negligence of safety standards by workers, the callous attitude of flouting of rules by building-owners, and a serious lack of control on ensuring safety standards by government authorities.
When asked by our DT reporters, the Capital Governorate Governor Shaikh Hisham bin Abdulrahman Al Khalifa said, “This building was checked on Jan 22, 2014, and was given strict directives to undertake urgent maintenance works, which was unheeded to.”
Strange and tragic is the fact that the workers were to move to a new accommodation from 1st March (as it was the beginning of the month) and they were actually spending the last day of the month, February 28, in this old house, after having already gathered up their belongings to take them the next day.
The workers, sadly, did not get to see even the day dawn.
But I hope that wisdom will dawn on others.
I hope the owners of buildings realize that letting out their places to tenants, even if they are subletting to others, without proper maintenance and safety systems is illegal.
I hope the illegal workers realize that regularizing their worker status and using government-given amnesty opportunities to leave the country is in their interest and in their families’ well-being.
I hope the government authorities realize that they must become stricter; and that they must take precautionary measures to avoid tragedies such as these.
Labour, Immigrations, Housing and Civil Defense are among the many key governmental authorities who need to relook at their current systems; especially in a country like Bahrain.
After all, this country looks externally for much of its labour force, and incidents like these can seriously damage the country’s reputation to attract foreign workers.