Clashes between police and anti-government protestors intensified this week as 1000 GCC troops entered Bahrain on Tuesday 15 March. A ‘state of emergency’ declaration by the Kingdom of Bahrain prompted lawyers and staff from international firms to evacuate Manama; as they await the all-clear signal to be issued from the British Foreign Office.
Firms including Baker & McKenzie, Freshfields and Norton Rose have temporarily shut down its offices in Bahrain, with many relocating to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the interim.
“Our staff’s safety is of primary concern – we’re taking a number of measures on that front. We are monitoring the UK Government Foreign Office and Embassy recommendations and follow all of these recommendations,” Norton Rose spokesman Michael Chambers told ALB yesterday. “All of those people still based in Bahrain are currently working remotely from home and [there are some] who have relocated to Abu Dhabi and Dubai for the time being. If any team member wants to leave the country, that is not an issue and the firm has taken the stance that they can do so. Their safety is the most important thing and we are assisting them with their travel arrangements.”
Other businesses based in central Manama have similarly shut down, as roadblocks and violence have made travelling to their offices “physically impossible”. “We are reflecting what our clients have done. HSBC have pulled their people out – they physically cannot enter the financial harbour. But all those clients are still working and most of them are operating remotely, Norton Rose senior partner and head of corporate finance Middle East Campbell Steedman said.
According to Steedman, lawyers in Bahrain have been given the option of relocating to either Dubai or to their home jurisdictions. “There have been two who opted to take family back to the UK while we monitor the situation. They will be back as soon as the advice by the foreign office changes,” Steedman said.
At present, Steedman predicts Bahrain-related transactions to continue but if projects are physically prevented from implementation, would impact work flows negatively, going forward, he says. “From the Dubai market the impact is still minimal at this stage and in Bahrain, it’s hard to tell. It depends on how long the current state of emergency exists but I think it’d be expected that there be some sensitivity in which investors and clients react to Bahrain,” he said.
“Bahrain has always been a stable market – they’ve always had tension that had often flared up previously, but not to the same degree,” Steedman said.
Norton Rose will continue to do operational business relating to Bahrain remotely and plans to return as soon as the security situation is deemed safe for expatriates to enter the capital.ALB
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