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Treating our migrant workers right

  • Published at 12:00 am February 6th, 2019
Migrant Workers-manpower
Their importance to our economy cannot be denied MEHEDI HASAN

Despite their contributions, our workers abroad face a rough time

There is no doubt that foreign remittance is one of the driving forces of the Bangladesh economy. According to International Organization of Migration (IOM), remittance accounts for 7.24% of Bangladesh GDP. 

Professional, non-professional, skilled, and unskilled migrant workers are the main source of such foreign remittance. More than 10 million Bangladeshis work in various professions around the world.

However, my question is: Why, despite their significant contribution to the Bangladesh economy, have they been neglected and humiliated by ungrateful Bangladesh government officials, particularly at the airport? 

We are getting tired of hearing that expatriates are being humiliated at the airport or attacked by hijackers and thieves on their way home.

Robbery at their houses have also become an everyday story. It seems that expatriates have no dignity, safety, and security at the airport, on the streets, or even at the seeming comfort of their own homes. 

They seem to be fugitives, they don’t even have the right to marry in a country like Malaysia. We as hostages are obliged to pay “jizya tax” for our parents, siblings, children, and corrupt officer salaries. We may be seriously disheartened by this continuous humiliation, and are forced to wonder: Is there anyone who listens to the cry of sorrow of expatriates? This question is left unanswered. Actually, it is bitter truth that if you are not respected by your own nation, how do you expect to gain any sort of respect from other nations? 

Despite the fact that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Bangladeshi embassy are located all over the world, the question of the efficiency of their services remains as relevant as ever.

Many foreign workers, regardless of their profession, face many problems related to their various services, such as legalization procedure, passport renewal, widespread wage discrimination, deprivation of labour rights, insurance coverage, claims relating to accidents, and the sending of a body. 

A large number of expatriates continue to be imprisoned for many years in the world. None of us are listening to their cries of sorrow. Who is responsible for providing legal services and returning them? Is there an appropriate policy or strategy for foreign labour? 

This paints a grim picture of the strength of our diplomatic bargaining power. It is very unfortunate that some of the government officials are busy oiling their respective higher authorities while the higher authority continues to sleep on the issue, and show no signs of taking any action whatsoever.

Therefore, we urge the new minister of foreign affairs to take bold initiatives to provide worry --free airport services and ensure the dignity, safety, and security of expatriate workers, including family members with the help of the law enforcement agencies.

The ministry should be more efficient and effective in enforcing labour laws and foreign policies in foreign countries. Most of the time, we continue to notice that foreign embassy officials are not people-friendly. 

They have no connection with expatriate experts such as students, medical doctors, engineers, lawyers, and academics. 

Therefore, we urge respective authority members of Bangladesh to establish a positive nexus with these professionals by appointing the representative of foreign workers from various sectors to deliver the appropriate services to these expatriates -- something that they fully deserve, and have earned through their continuous toil and dedication to the country. 

Muhammad Mehedi Masud is Assistant Professor, Department of Development Studies, University of Malaya, Malaysia.