Despite being the driving force of the country’s economy, migrant workers are often deprived of optimum services from the labour wings, officials and staff members posted at Bangladesh missions abroad.
Labour officials are alleged to treat the expatriate workers poorly, and not providing them assistance.
A total of Tk150m is spent annually on labour wings services from the Wage Earners’ Welfare Fund. Around Tk350m is also given from the government exchequer.
In 2012, migrant workers alone remitted $14bn to the country.
Sometimes, the lack of cooperation from the wings officials at Bangladesh missions abroad costs the workers their jobs, and they are forced to return to the country empty handed.
Rezaul Karim of Gaibandha district was one of 36 workers who recently lost their jobs in the United Arab Emirates.
Speaking to the the Dhaka Tribune at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, Rezaul said he had been working at a British company, but its operation came to a halt without prior notification.
Rezaul and the other Bangladeshi migrant workers had to return home without four months’ worth of wages.
Asked whether he went to the Labour Wing at Dubai, Rezaul said: “I went to Bangladesh Embassy in Dubai to find out whether a visa would be issued. The man at the information centre asked me to contact the immigration section and stopped answering any of my queries.”
Wishing not to be named, a senior official of Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) told the Dhaka Tribune that officials at labour wings abroad are often too busy talking to their relatives to pay attention to migrant workers.
He alleged that jobs at the foreign missions are riddled with nepotism and political blessings. The officials are neither efficient nor committed to delivering standard services to the migrant workers.
The official also mentioned that when migrant workers are killed in accidents, cases are filed, but due to lack of proper attention, they are not followed through on. Relatives of the deceased in such cases receive no compensation.
He said such incidents are prevalent in many countries including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
A senior official of the expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment ministry told the Dhaka Tribune that the wings officials failed to forecast that the UAE was going to suspend issuance of visas for Bangladeshi workers, which happened in October 2012.
Against the backdrop that happening, the ministry, which takes care of the welfare of migrant workers, asked all officials aboard to sincerely deliver necessary services to the migrant workers.
In November 2012, the ministry issued a circular with the directives to all 16 labour wings in 14 countries.
The wings were opened only to look after the migrants.
“We have learnt from the media that the migrants are deprived of full cooperation from the labour wings. We directed the officials out there to sincerely deliver services to the expatriate workers and become more accountable,” expatriates’ welfare Secretary Zafar Ahmed Khan told the Dhaka Tribune at his office on Monday.
“The labour wings have turned around, but still I am not happy,” he added.
The directives asked labour wing officials to behave cordially with workers and to extend them any necessary legal assistance.
Officials were also asked to maintain a registry to keep information about services rendered, which was to be included in the monthly report.
The officials were directed to keep a chart, and according to that, they were to visit the migrants’ workplaces, their accommodation, labour camps, deportation centres and prison centres. They were further required to give their phone numbers to the workers in case of emergency.
The labour wings staff is supposed to submit their report of inspection to the ambassadors, high commissioners and consul generals within the shortest possible time. And the detailed report has to be sent to the ministry.
The labour wings will regularly apprise the ministry, BMET and Wage Earners Welfare Board of illegal migrant workers. The officials will inform the ministry about the demands of workers in their respective countries.
Officials of the labour wings will regularly visit websites of the ministry, BMET, Bangladesh Overseas Employment Services Limited and the Expatriates’ Welfare Bank and take actions accordingly.
The circular also says vehicles of the labour wings will be used for the employment and welfare purposes of the workers. A log book has to be maintained and the monthly report relating to the use of the vehicles has to be sent as per the chart.
Before issuing visas, the wings will make a standard recruitment deal with the employers, and if violated, it will give the workers legal assistance, the circular adds.
The wings must inform the ambassadors of their activities.
The implementation of the directives will be reflected in the annual confidential report of the officials.