• Tuesday, Aug 11, 2020
  • Last Update : 07:05 pm

No end to women migrant workers’ grief

  • Published at 01:34 am September 15th, 2018
female migrant workers Saudi Arabia tRajib Dhar
More than 1,500 female migrant workers, most of whom were employed as domestic help , have returned from Saudi Arabia this year alone Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

Many of the Saudi-returnee women complained that the officials of the Bangladesh Embassy in Riyadh were not helpful

More and more Bangladeshi female migrant workers are returning from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with tales of exploitation and abuse. 

Sixty-five more women, who had gone to Saudi Arabia as housemaids, returned to Bangladesh on Thursday night, struggling with the trauma of torture in the hands of their employers. 

“We received 65 Bangladeshi female migrant workers returning from Saudi Arabia on Thursday due to wage-related irregularities as well as abuse,” ABM Farhad Al Karim, manager of NGO Brac’s migration program, told the Dhaka Tribune on Thursday night. “The number of Saudi-returnees is increasing every day. More than 1,500 women have returned this year alone.”

Farhad further said there were many more women in the safe home of the Bangladesh Embassy in Riyadh, as well as the Saudi government’s immigration camp, waiting to be sent back home. 

“Among the 65 returnees, 37 women informed us that they had been tortured in the immigration camp as well,” said Farhad. 

According to Brac, 49,000 Bangladeshi women have gone to Saudi Arabia in 2018 so far.

“The women have been coming back mostly due to physical torture, extreme work load and irregularities over salaries,” Farhad told the Dhaka Tribune. “In most cases, their dignity is not ensured in their workplace, and their basic human rights are often violated by their foreign employers.” 

Unfairly treated

“I worked for my employers for 10 months, but was paid salaries for only five months,” said Farida Begum, a native of the Khagrachhari district and one of the 65 returnees. “Whenever I asked for my money, they beat me. I had an extreme workload, and hardly had time to sleep at night.” 

Jahanara Begum, of Manikganj district, said she could not bring back a single penny despite working for three months in a Saudi police official’s residence. 

“I could not ask for my wages fearing torture,” she said. “They did not give me food, clothes or medicines, and forced me to work day and night. Unable to cope with it, I asked them to send me back to Bangladesh.

“I will beg on the streets here if I have to, but I will never go abroad to work,” she vehemently said. 

The women pleaded the government to stop sending Bangladesh women to Saudi Arabia for work as there is a lack of safety. 

‘Embassy officials are equally bad’

Many of the Saudi-returnee women complained that the officials of the Bangladesh Embassy in Riyadh were not helpful. 

“After suffering inhuman torture from our Saudi employers, we took shelter in the Bangladesh Embassy. Instead of sending us back to Bangladesh, the embassy officials handed us over to a foreign company where we faced more suffering,” said Nurun Nahar, resident of Narsingdi district. 

“The government must look into the irregularities in the embassy,” she told the Dhaka Tribune.  

Sources in the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment said the Bangladesh government had already asked the Saudi government about the allegations of abuse. 

Seeking anonymity, a high-level ministry official said during a bilateral meeting in Saudi Arabia in March, when a Bangladesh delegation led by ministry Secretary Dr Namita Halder informed the Saudi authorities of the incidents of abuse, they were surprised. 

“The Saudi officials raised counter allegations against Bangladeshi workers, saying the workers were unwilling to work and escaped,” the official said. “Later, the Saudis said they would look into the allegations.” 

When contacted on Thursday, the ministry’s Additional Secretary Md Aminul Islam told the Dhaka Tribune: “No country will take responsibilities for such incidents. But our government is still working through our embassy to resolve the problems. 

“We have repeatedly informed the Saudi government about the incidents; some of the problems have been resolved. This is a continuous process, and our efforts will continue,” he added. 

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