Gulf European Centre for Human Rights (GECHR), acting on behalf of Travel Ban victims in Bahrain, is asking serious questions as to whether the system of travel bans, being used by international banks in Bahrain, is in compliance with the International Code of Banking Practice, and requesting an investigation into the validity of their use for customers.
Fulad, Director General of GECHR, said, "It I very concerning that any customer, who has a loan or a credit card with a bank in Bahrain, is at risk of being travel ban for non-payment - regardless of whether they have extenuating circumstances or not. We believe this is a violation of human rights treaties signed by Bahrain, and does not comply with banking regulations, seriously jeopardising Bahrain as centre of excellence for the banking industry."
"Furthermore, the banks are well aware that the Immigration Department refuses to renew the residency of someone with a travel ban, so they are actually stopping their customers from earning to pay them back. This is totally nonsensical and is a further violation of human rights in Bahrain," he added.
A number of expatriate victims of travel bans placed on them by banks, have approached GECHR to complain about this violation of their human rights. GECHR is working with concerned volunteers who have connected through a Facebook page call Banned From Travel, to negotiate a release for victims who have found themselves at the mercy of financial institutions and other creditors here.
Fulad told us there is grave concern that customers are not being treated fairly by financial institutions in Bahrain who, knowing very well that they can travel ban people, are overlooking the necessary due diligence reviews that they should make before offering a loan to a customer. They are also offering loans for a longer term than the customer has a contractual employment, a very questionable practice.
Other concerns are about transparency, as, according to the Code of Banking Practice which banks are required to adhere to - all consequences of non-payment should be agreed in writing by the customer, but nowhere does it state that a travel ban will be placed.
"Added to that we are gravely troubled with the callousness of banks, particularly since Bahrain is considered a centre of excellence for the banking sector, who are not showing compassion to customer's with real hardship and need. Indeed they are making the circumstances of a debtor even worse - something that is thought of very harshly in the Islamic world."
Fulad has asked for is asking for a review of the current system that currently stops people from working to pay off their debt when the residency of a travel ban victim is refused.
GECHR is an association looking after the fundamental human rights of the citizens of Bahrain and works with other Human Rights organisations globally to bring about the restoration of human rights in the Kingdom.