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Embassies silent on visa rule clampdown

FOREIGN embassies in Bahrain yesterday refused to be drawn into a row over whether tougher visa rules should be brought in for women from certain countries.

It follows calls by a group of MPs on Tuesday for a clampdown on women coming in from Thailand, Ethiopia, Russia and China in a bid to tackle prostitution.

The proposal was eventually put on hold after it was agreed it should first be studied by a parliament committee and taken up with the Interior Ministry.

However, the Al Asala bloc - which proposed the measure - remained adamant that the flow of women from these countries should be restricted.

Visitors from China, Thailand and Russia are currently granted two-week visit visas upon arrival at Bahrain International Airport.

However, those from Ethiopia must apply for a visa before travelling to Bahrain.

Neither the Russian nor the Chinese Embassy in Bahrain would yesterday comment on claims by Bahraini MPs that women from these four countries made up the majority of prostitutes in Bahrain.

Both embassies described it as a parliamentary matter and an internal debate for Bahraini politicians.

Ethiopian community leader Abdul Salam Daoud confirmed he had forwarded reports of Tuesday's session to the Ethiopian Embassy in Kuwait, but would not comment further.

However, while a Thai Embassy spokesman said the matter was one for the Bahraini authorities, he did warn that such a step could have consequences for law-abiding foreign citizens living in Bahrain.

He also added the embassy was already trying to tackle the problem of prostitution.

"The authorities need to sit together and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this decision," he said.

"Around 5,000 Thais live and work in Bahrain and we have to think about not affecting other people, as not everyone is a prostitute.

"Some have good positions in the community as well as in Bahrain.

"We have been working for the last five years to combat this problem."

Although members of the Al Asala bloc were adamant that action must be taken, other MPs said their proposal was too heavy-handed and could in turn have repercussions for Bahrainis visiting those countries.

They also said it was more important to go after traffickers rather than the victims of trafficking, while one stressed that not all women from those countries were prostitutes. aneeqa@gdn.com.bh



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