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Foreign minister admits some female workers tortured in Saudi Arabia

  • Published at 12:13 am November 1st, 2019
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Foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen briefs journalists at his office in Dhaka on Thursday, October 31, 2019 Focus Bangla

Govt not to stop sending women workers to the Middle Eastern country

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has acknowledged that some Bangladeshi female workers are tortured in Saudi Arabia, but appeared to have downplayed the magnitude of the suffering of the women — who have long been subjected to serious crimes including rape at the hands of their employers there.

He also ruled out any moratorium on sending women workers to the oil rich kingdom, the largest remittance sending country for Bangladesh.

“There are 250,000-300,000 female workers [in Saudi Arabia]. How many of them became victims of such crimes? Some people are being tortured and we have made arrangements for them,” the minister told reporters at his office yesterday.

“We are providing those who are tortured with housing and we are also bringing them back. In some cases these are happening,” he replied to a barrage of questions highlighting the plight of Bangladeshi female workers in Saudi Arabia with statistics.

Momen mentioned a day’s development where he handed over cheques to the family of deceased and two injured in the crane accident in Makkah in 2015.

“Bangladesh’s relationship with Saudia Arabia is very good. That is why they paid Tk2.26 crore for the deceased and Tk1.13 crore for the injured. Think about it,” he said.

“Many are returning because the number of jobs has gone down [in Saudi Arabia],” he added.

When suggested that Bangladesh does not “challenge” the Saudi Arabian government about the torture of the female workers, the foreign minister said: “How do you know we don’t challenge? Whenever there is any accident, we instantly inform the Saudi authorities.

“How do you know that we did not challenge? Do we have to tell the public that we have challenged?”

Momen said: “There are 12.2 million expatriates across the world. People die when they are abroad. Only 1% of those amount to 11,000. Think about it. Many people would die normally. Isn’t it?”

If any of our workers face ill treatment, the government immediately draws Saudi Arabia’s attention and they take measures in line with their laws, he said.

On many occasions, information also remains unavailable to deal with the allegations, he added.

The foreign minister refuted a notion that many domestic workers are not able to lodge complaints due to the environment they live in.

“No, no. There is a mechanism in place through which they can complain. We have established shelters for them. Indeed, some victimisations are taking place and we are informing the Saudi government,” he said.

“The Saudi authorities are also realising that some incidents are happening. These are happening in individual levels. The [Saudi] government is not victimising them,” he stressed.

When asked if Bangladesh will stop sending female workers to Saudi Arabia, the minister said: “We, Bangladesh, do not want to discriminate. We do not want to leave women left behind.

“I don’t want to stop those women who want to go, because in our country man and woman are equal. We do not want to keep women as second class citizens.”