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Help on the way for expat female workers

  • Published at 02:10 pm December 2nd, 2019
A female worker, who returned from Saudi Arabia along with 25 others on Tuesday, talks to reporters at Dhaka airport after
File Photo: A female worker, who returned from Saudi Arabia along with 25 others on Tuesday, talks to reporters at Dhaka airport after their arrivalSyed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia join hands to ensure safety of female expat workers

The governments of Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia have agreed on implementing a number of measures as part of an initiative to make the kingdom a more secure workplace for Bangladeshi female workers

Both governments will work together to ensure safety and security of the workers, while the initiative will bring the recruiting agencies in both countries into the process, to make them responsible for the workers’ wellbeing as long as they are at their workplace.

Officials of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry made the disclosures at a press briefing held at the Probashi Kallyan Bhaban in Dhaka on Monday.

File photo of a female migrant worker who returned from Saudi Arabia recently | Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Reading out a written statement, the ministry’s Joint Secretary Md Zahid Hossain said Saudi Arabian authorities have assured Bangladesh of taking all necessary steps to ensure the safety of Bangladeshi female workers in their country.

“The recruiting agencies in both countries will carry all sorts of responsibilities while the workers are employed in Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Saudi police will also not hand over the female workers to their recruiters if they escape, Zahid said. “Recruiting agencies will arrange residential and other facilities for the workers awaiting repatriation.”

The agencies concerned will inform the Bangladesh Embassy in Riyadh and Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labor and Social Development either when the working period of a female worker ends or when the worker wants to extend their working period there, he added.

The decisions were taken at the third meeting of a joint technical committee in Riyadh on November 27, after local police rescued a Bangladeshi female worker in Saudi Arabia when a video clip of her seeking help to escape physical and mental abuse at the hands of her employer went viral.

Photo: Female migrant workers returning from Saudi Arabia | Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

In the last four years, over 5,000 Bangladeshi women have returned from Saudi Arabia, amidst allegations of inhumane abuse and torture against their employers there.

In 2018 alone, at least 1,500 women returned home from Saudi Arabia, according to Brac’s Migration Programme.

At the moment, some 146 female workers are staying at different safe homes in Saudi Arabia and 34 others are at the deportation centres, Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Secretary Md Salim Reza told Monday's press conference.

More measures

Briefing the media on the outcomes of the meeting, Secretary Reza, who led the Bangladesh delegation, said it was also decided that an IT platform, named Musaned, will be launched.

Musaned will have the female workers’ addresses, the full contact information of Bangladeshi and Saudi recruiting agencies, updated information of the recruiters, female workers’ arrival dates and other related information, he said.

The platform will have seven tools: rights and obligations of both the employer and employee; service stages of recruitment, employment and departure; recruitment offices and companies with a list of all the licensed recruitment offices and companies; complaints and committees including the process on how to file a complaint; information centre; required documents; and e-recruitment services.

Setting up of an Approval Window in the Musaned system of Bangladesh Embassy in Saudi Arabia will also be considered, Reza said.

If any female worker faces any trouble, Saudi Arabia’s Department of Protection and Support will immediately notify the local authorities concerned about the matter first.

However, Saudi authorities will first verify the recruiters, and only after that they will allow the female workers to travel there, as part of the initiative to ensure their safety, said the secretary.

He said discussions were also held on easing the case filing system at the Saudi labour courts, and Saudi authorities will inform the embassies soon in this regard.

Reza said they have also urged the Saudi labour ministry to investigate the abuse and torture faced by female workers who are now at the safe homes there.

He added that both sides discussed signing a general agreement, apart from pledging to work together to stop visa business through illegal channels.