Expats in dispute with banks in Bahrain over loan or credit card debts are held hostage with a travel ban that stops them leaving the country.
Human rights lobbyists are calling on the Bahraini government to investigate the laws they claim are abused by financial institutions.
The Gulf Centre For Human Rights explained that laws in Bahrain let financial institutions routinely apply to a civil court for the travel ban unless outstanding credit is repaid in full.
The group has a list of ex pats who were stopped from boarding flights out of the country over a disputed debt they knew nothing about.
GECHR director general Faisal Fulad said: “It is concerning that any customer who has a loan or a credit card with a bank in Bahrain is at risk of being travel banned 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.”
Another action group, the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society (BHRWS), is highlighting the case of about 4,000 travel ban victims to the United Nations.
The government in Bahrain is facing severe pressure to improve human rights laws.
This year’s Formula One grand prix only went ahead with strict security precautions following demonstrations – and last year’s race was called off.
Protestors in jail are on hunger strike and troops and police have faced violent protests on the streets for more than a year as part of the Arab Spring uprising across North Africa and the Middle East.
Expats commenting in local media claim the government regime in Bahrain is benign compared to many that have faced Arab Spring revolts – with religious sectarianism between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims at the root.