Some 750,000 workers to go abroad between March 2020 and March 2021
3,658 Bangladeshi migrant workers’ dead bodies were brought back home from various countries in 2019, says the government.
They died of natural causes, ailments, and accidents, according to data revealed on Sunday at a press meet organized by Reporters for Bangladeshi Migrants, at the Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry.
The ministry’s Secretary Md Salim Reza said: “Tk12.80 crore has already been given to the families of the deceased as compensation.”
Another Tk53.69 crore has been distributed to 850 migrant workers as compensation from the countries where they worked, according to statistics.
However, according to non government organization Brac, the dead bodies of 3,838 workers — the highest ever — were sent back to Bangladesh up until November last year.
Salim said 701,000 workers, including 111,000 women, went to various countries last year. The number was about 51,000 over the estimated target of 650,000.
Of the total, 44% of workers were skilled and 20% semi-skilled.
“Analyzing the women migrant workers, we have also found that 50% of them are either widows or divorcees,” said Salim.
The highest number of workers went to Saudi Arabia, followed by Oman, Qatar, and Singapore.
Comilla district sent the highest number of workers abroad, followed by Brahmanbaria, Chittagong, Tangail, and Dhaka.
Torture of women workers down
Talking to reporters, Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmad said the number of migrant women workers tortured abroad had also gone down in the last few months.
Urging workers to complain if they face any kind of torture abroad, he said: “If there is no complaint, we can’t take action [against the oppressor] unilaterally. It gets difficult.”
The grim picture of Bangladeshi female migrant workers in Saudi Arabia came to light when a number of them returned home with horrific tales of abuse by their employers.
1,250 female workers returned home from Saudi Arabia alone in 2019, says Brac’s Migration Programme. 129 women were brought home dead. Of them, 24 had committed suicide.
The ministry, investigating 111 cases of returning female workers in August last year, found that 35% of them were victims of sexual and physical abuse, while 43% received irregular wages.
Indeed, some 176 more Bangladeshi workers were sent back home from Saudi Arabia in two flights between Saturday night and early hours of on Sunday, reports UNB.
Another flight with 70 other workers — including 15 women who were allegedly abused by their employers overseas — arrived in Dhaka on Sunday noon, said Shariful Hasan, head of Brac’s Migration Programme.
He added that around another 100 workers were also scheduled to arrive in Dhaka last night.
Shariful said in all, 24,281 workers were deported to Bangladesh from Saudi Arabia in 2019. In the last four days alone this year, 317 workers returned home.
No migration to Malaysia until cost is fixed
Minister Imran Ahmed Sunday said the government will not open the Malaysian labour market until recruiters charge migrants the rate fixed by the government.
“I will not let migrants hide in Malaysian jungles after spending Tk600,000 for jobs in Malaysia. We will not sign such deals,” he said. “Pressuring migrants for additional payment is unjust.”
Last year, a few new job markets also opened, which include Cambodia, Herzegovina (the southern region of Bosnia and Herzegovina), Romania, Hungary, Poland, China and several others, said Secretary Salim.
“This year we will try sending workers to some new countries. And, initiatives have already been taken to reopen the markets in Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates,” he added.
Minister Imran Ahmad said the government plans to send 750,000 workers abroad in “Mujib Year,” which will begin on March 17 this year and continue until March 2021.
“Skilled workers will be sent to newer labour markets abroad in the Mujib Year,” he added.
About government measures for the safety of Bangladeshi expatriate workers in the midst of tensions in the Middle East, he said they will have a discussion with the foreign secretary on Monday to this end.
Jump in remittances
Quoting the latest data, Secretary Salim Reza said Bangladesh earned $18 billion last year in remittances, 16.2% higher than the amount received in 2018.
The government has also announced a 2% incentive for the expatriate community from financial year 2019-20, in an effort to encourage more remittances, he said.
Salim also hoped the remittances would exceed $20 billion in the current fiscal.
Action against agencies
To ensure the safe migration of workers, Salim said mobile courts and the Inter-Ministry Task Force conducted 21 drives to prevent deception, irregularities, and other fraudulent activities.
Various allegations were received against 214 recruiting agencies, and Tk3.44 crore was recovered from some of them as compensation for workers.
The licence of one of those agencies was cancelled and two others, suspended.
Minister Imran Ahmad said the government would not tolerate any irregularities in the overseas employment sector.
“If the recruiting agencies are not punished for their illegal activities, they will do it repeatedly,” he said.
Bangladesh also lost the privilege to send workers into the labour markets of several countries, including Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, because of the illegal practices of manpower brokers, Imran said.
Undocumented migrants also create a major challenge for the government in renewing suspended labour markets, he added.