1,300 migrant workers sent back dead in five months
Rabiul Islam

Migration experts say not all of these workers could have died of natural reasons

  • A snap of Bangladeshi migrant workers  
    Photo- Creative Commons

The country’s economy thrives with the money they send back home.

They earn the money that comprises staggering remittance figures of Tk12.2bn and Tk14bn, by engaging in all kinds of hazardous works abroad, often at the cost of their lives.

However, the treatment they get when these unsung national heroes come back home locked in coffins, is no match with the kind of credits they are given for boosting the country’s forex reserves.

Even the policymakers, who take the credit for overwhelming remittance figures, appear much less enthusiastic when it comes down to finding out why thousands of young workers die untimely deaths abroad.

In the last five months, a total of 1,300 dead bodies of migrant workers had been sent back home from various countries including Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, officials said.

According to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), 2,878 dead bodies of migrant workers were sent home in 2012 and 2,585 in 2011.

The death certificates that the Bangladesh missions issue claim most of these deaths as normal. Other reasons include heart attack, road accidents, fire burns and falling from rooftops.

“There is no study on the deaths of migrant workers who are the driving force of our economy,” Tasneem Siddiqui, founding chairman of Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit, told the Dhaka Tribune.

So many young migrant workers could not have all died natural deaths abroad, she said.

These workers could have died because they were beaten to death or it might also be that they did not use protective gears while working in scorching heat, Tasneem claimed. “We must investigate into these deaths.”

“We should do post-mortem to find out why young migrant workers die in large numbers,” she suggested.

The BMET director general was not immediately available for a comment.

However, a senior official of the BMET said the cost of migration could be one of the biggest reasons behind these deaths.

Many workers have in the past migrated to different countries spending amounts like Tk300,000 to Tk400,000. When these workers fail to earn enough to cover for those amounts, they get frustrated, and suffer from hypertension and other diseases and eventually die of heart attacks and brain strokes, the BMET official said.

He also said unhealthy food habits could also be another reason behind the deaths of migrant workers abroad.

The government has, meanwhile, raised the amount of compensation from Tk200,000 to Tk300,000 for the families of each of the deceased migrant workers.

This compensation is paid out from the government’s Wage Earners’ Welfare Fund.

The hike was made applicable from April 1 this year.

A government official said the families of those workers who died in accidents or committed suicides, did not get the compensation.

From now on, however, the compensation would be given for all kinds of deaths of Bangladeshi nationals abroad except for those of businessmen who go abroad for treatment, he said.

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