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Reasons behind Crown Prince's Decree: US Personnel Compete with Bahrainis, Won't be Treated as Foreigners in Labor Market

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): What is the background and purpose behind the decree issued by Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad, which granted families of US personnel working at the military base in Bahrain and the Fifth Fleet the right to work?

According to the publication, Bahrain hosts more than 4,200 US military personnel serving in the Fifth Fleet, and the exact number of families of military personnel in Bahrain is not known, but at a minimum they account for more than two thousand, noting that the US military personnel receive massive financial benefits for their work at military bases outside the United States.

The announcement was made during a meeting with the Commander of the US Central Command Navy, Commander of the Fifth Fleet, Charles Bradford Cooper, and immediately after the news was released, the US Navy Fifth Fleet website published the requirements that family members wishing to work in the United States Fleet should do.

The requirements are very easy for those who want to get a job; first the issued decision allowed them to keep their visa through which they entered the country, which is a visa of the US Department of Defense, noting that keeping this visa means that they will be above any local law, in other words, it will be impossible for the families of military personnel working in the Bahraini market to be subject to local Bahraini laws, which means that they are not subject to any kind of accountability or prosecution according to the laws of the country, and having immunity that no one else in the Bahraini market has.

Second, two employees from the Labor Market Regulatory Authority have been allocated to serve Americans and finish their transactions easily and swiftly. Third, Americans entering the Bahraini market will retain the health insurance provided to them by the US Department of Defense.

Fourth, and most importantly, Americans will not be considered as foreign employees in the place of work, and therefore will not be counted in the quota of foreign employees allowed for an employer to have, meaning that the employer can employ Americans just as he employs Bahrainis without decreasing his number of foreign employees.

Sources say that the Bahraini decision comes after the former US Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, issued an order in 2020, stating that US military personnel in some Middle Eastern countries be unaccompanied by their families, as the families were ordered to gradually withdraw by 2022.

This has caused losses for landlords of luxury villas and apartments, in the distinctive areas of Amwaj Island, Juffair, among others, as the number of American families began to decrease during the past two years that were renting luxury properties for a monthly sum ranging between 900 and 1200 dinars.

The sources also indicate that the Crown Prince was personally affected by the news that the US Department of Defense (Bahrain School), where the Crown Prince received his education, could be closed. The number of American students has decreased after the decision to gradually withdraw families over the past two years.

For multiple political, economic, and possibly personal reasons, the Crown Prince issued a decree encouraging the Pentagon to allow the return of the families of at least 4,200 U.S. Fifth Fleet personnel in Bahrain.

According to a report published by CNN in 2013, the US Fifth Fleet in Bahrain is not limited to political or security roles, but extends to direct and indirect financial and economic gains for governance and traders, through the amounts the fleet pays for services in ports and rental of real estate.

According to the former US ambassador to Bahrain, Adam Ereli, US ships go to Bahrain for maintenance and supply, and the fleet provides $91 million (to large property owners) through real estate occupancy and maintenance costs, and the figure rises to more than $180 million if it pays for more than 4, 000 American soldiers, from annual rentals and living expenditures in the country.

The Crown Prince's decision raised several questions, including a question raised by the opposition leader Ibrahim Sharif, who tweeted: Is this decision serve the interest of the people of the country? Is there reciprocity? Doesn't the government fear that the wives/husbands of American military personnel will stand in the way of Bahraini youths?

It can be said that this decision in essence provoked Bahrainis significantly, especially the unemployed and their families, and it has become the talk of the councils from the first moments it was issued, but many overlook that the decision was provocative in its form as well, as the decree published by the Bahrain News Agency said in its conclusion that this will contribute to "creating more promising opportunities for citizens."

Arabic Version