Visa frauds rake in millions by preying on African youth seeking jobs in Bahrain
TDT | Manama
The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com
While riding in heavily air-conditioned vehicles on roads, have you ever wondered about African nationals, in groups or alone, treading through the pedestrian walkways of Manama braving the scorching heat?
The young ones, mostly males, seemingly in the age group between 20 and 30, can be seen holding a bag carrying their resumes, educational qualification and work experience certificates. The seekers of hope, who are unperturbed by the extreme weather, are here to find means of living after suffering the conditions of immense poverty and high unemployment fuelled by the pandemic in their countries.
There is nothing new about the arrival of Africans wearing the robes of jobseekers into Bahrain. But their entry in large numbers is an alleged tale of youngsters from the continent falling victim to visa fraudsters. It is learnt that on the pretext of providing jobs in Bahrain, hundreds have been duped by the fraudsters by handing over three-month multiple entry visit visas after taking amounts ranging between BD1,200 and BD1,500.
Most of the victims are from West African nations that include Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon. “I paid 1.5 million Nigerian Naira (BD1,350) to an agent in Lagos to reach here. He said upon reaching here I would be offered jobs with salaries ranging between BD400 and BD500. It has been a month now and everyday I walk at least 10 to 20 kms in the hot sun, searching for jobs,” a 23-year-old Nigerian national, a desperate jobseeker in Bahrain, told The Daily Tribune.
“I don’t have money to survive here, neither can I return home without success. I really don’t know what the future holds for me.”
Another Nigerian national, who could not obtain a job in Bahrain, after following the similar route, said he plans to return home. “We all have been cheated very badly by the agents. But, what could be done? We have to move on in life,” the 24-year-old hair stylist said.
He also said that he felt a certain kind of racial discrimination existed in Bahrain’s private sector job market. “I visited many salons across the Kingdom seeking a job as a hair stylist. Almost all of them were run by expatriates, who would openly tell me that there are vacancies but they simply don’t want to employ an African national.”
Shamsuddin VK, an expatriate businessman in Bahrain, said at least 10 to 15 African nationals visit his enterprise daily seeking jobs. “I feel really sorry for them as I have nothing to offer. I urge the authorities to take strict action against the culprits who continue to defraud these innocent youngsters.”
Social workers in Bahrain said that the majority of victims only realise the fraudulent act after reaching the Kingdom on a visit visa. “However, after falling victim to the scammers they have no other option other than returning home or continuing their stay in the Kingdom as an illegal resident.”
Speaking to The Daily Tribune, social worker Gangan Trikaripur said visa fraudsters are preying on not only jobseekers from Africa but also from South Asian countries including India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
“Owing to poor financial situations mainly caused by the pandemic, many unemployed youths from these countries are trying to obtain jobs in Gulf countries including Bahrain. They get in touch with many fake recruitment agents through social media platforms and are conned out of money.”
“Among the victims there are a large number of women expatriates as well. They are lured into the trap by offering jobs in the hospitality industry. I know an expat woman, who was offered a week’s visit visa in the name of employment visa, who was later rescued and sent home.”
He said the intensity of the fraudulent act is so high that the scammers are selling visas obtained for BD9 to vulnerable individuals for a minimum amount of BD700.
He urged potential expatriate jobseekers to keep a distance from fake online advertisements offering jobs with extremely high salaries. The other major visa scam, according to him, originates from within the Kingdom. “Many sponsors and their agents obtain employment visas and copies are sent to expat jobseekers, who pay huge amounts in return thinking they have been offered employment here. But, these sponsors and their agents would instantly cancel these visas and get the amount refunded from the Labour Market Regulatory Authority.
“The victims only realise their illegal status upon arriving at Bahrain International Airport and they, most often, return home as they have not much options left. There were also many cases of free visa holders being cheated by their sponsors, who cancel visas after taking the entire amount from victims. The victims can’t even file a police complaint as obtaining the free visa by itself is an illegal act.”
The Daily Tribune is awaiting response from Nationality, Passport and Residence Affairs with regard to the steps taken to increase awareness among overseas jobseekers.