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Dhaka Tribune

Shattered dreams: Women workers continue to leave KSA

According to a report compiled by non-governmental organization BRAC, more than 5,000 Bangladeshi female workers, who worked as domestic help for Saudi families, have returned home in the past three years

Update : 22 Jun 2018, 08:13 AM

Hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken Bangladeshi women workers left their homes for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), seeking to turn their lives around by working abroad. However,in recent times, the number of these women returning home is increasing at an alarming rate.

According to a report compiled by non-governmental organization BRAC, more than 5,000 Bangladeshi female workers, who worked as domestic help for Saudi families, have returned home in the past three years.

Speaking with the Dhaka Tribune, Al Amin, the spokesman of BRAC’s migration program said: “Atotal of 386 women workers,from the Saudi immigration camp at Riyadh,have returned to Bangladeshfrom May to Junethis year.

“The women who returnedhave told us that they left KSA because their basic human rights were violated by their employers. Many of these workers reported facing physical torture and payment irregularities from their employers.”

A significant number of female Bangladeshi workers also became victims of sexual harassment in Saudi Arabia, leading to psychological issues among them.

Torture and beatings

Farida Khatunis a resident of Kurigram districtand a mother of two children. She began living with her parents after her drug-addicted husband abandoned her to marry another woman. 

But it was difficult for Farida’s father to feed a large family with his meager income— prompting her to earn some money.

During that period, she had learned from her neighbours that many Bangladeshi women were going to Saudi Arabia as domestic workers—free ofcharge. 

Farida decided to leave Bangladesh for KSA in April this year, with plans to earn enough money to help her struggling family. However, she was not prepared for the difficult working conditions there.

The young woman, who returned to Bangladesh on June 19, told the correspondent:“I facedoverwhelming workloads every day,which prevented me from getting enough sleep. They [the employers] did not provide me with adequate food or necessary medicines.

“I asked my employers for my salary after working for two months, but my they refused to pay my dues and beat me up instead.”

Farida was later sent to a Saudi jail, where she remained incarcerated without any foodduring the Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations. 

She also revealed that hundreds of Bangladeshi women arewaiting in Saudi jails and immigration campsfor an opportunity to return to Bangladesh. 

“Many of these female workerssuffered severe torture, including sexual assault at the hands of their employers. Many have wounds on different parts of their bodies, while some even suffered broken arms and legs,” she told the Dhaka Tribune. 

‘The gov’t has no data’

Noted writer and researcher Maleka Begum, at a recent program, stated that around 735,575 female workers are presently employed in different countries, including those in the Middle East region. 

Among these women, more than 234,831 women went to Saudi Arabia seeking employment.

Following the bilateral agreement between Bangladesh and KSA back in 2015, around 200,000 Bangladeshi women have gone abroad. However, many of them have already returned home due to trying working conditions. 

“However, the government does not have any accurate data on how many Bangladeshi women workers have returned home after being cheated,” Maleka said at the program organized by BRAC last week.

Contacted on her mobile phone on June 20, Dr Namita Halder, the secretary of the Ministry of Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment declined to provide any comment on the issue.

However, Md Aminul Islam, the additional secretary (Admin and Finance) of the ministry told the Dhaka Tribune:“Weare working to create an official and well-organized database for documentingBangladeshi nationals working in other countries.

“This is a relatively new issue for this country, and the government is monitoring the situation with due importance. We presently have no accurate data on how many Bangladeshi workers (both male and female) have gone abroad and then returned.”

Aminul added that the concerned ministry will start working to build an official and reliable database as soon as possible.    

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