GFMD and global partnership for women’s safe migration

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GFMD and global partnership for women’s safe migrationThe foreign ministry of Bangladesh recently briefed the heads of diplomatic missions in Dhaka on the upcoming 3-day ninth summit of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) to be held on December 10-12, 2016. The theme of this year’s summit is: “Migration that works for Sustainable Development for all: Towards a Transformative Migration Agenda.”

Bangladesh government expects that talks at the summit will allow Bangladesh to deal with migration issues bilaterally with other countries, in a more systematic manner. It is also most likely to open new opportunities of migrants from Bangladesh; the country’s economy relies heavily on the remittances that migrant workers send home. Bangladesh ranks seventh in the list of the world’s top remittance-receiving nations. According to the Bangladesh government, remittances amounted to as an incredible $15.31 billion in fiscal 2015 — the highest in the country’s history, accounted for around ten per cent of the country’s GDP. Continue reading

Who guards the guards?

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SENTRY DUTY: After retiring from the Nepal Army, Dhan Singh Dhami worked in Afghanistan 2004-2015 as a security guard for an American contractor. He wanted to go back to Kabul, but is stuck in Kathmandu (overleaf) even after the ban on Nepalis working in Afghanistan was lifted last month.

Simplifying the recruitment process and easing restrictions will help Nepalis working in Afghanistan more than a blanket ban

Dhan Singh Dhami could have been at his duty station as a security guard in Afghanistan by now, but a four-month ban on Nepalis working in the war-torn country delayed his plan.

After the death of 13 Nepalis guarding the Canadian Embassy in a terrorist attack in Kabul in June, the government prohibited Nepalis from going to Afghanistan. Dhami was stuck in Kathmandu, and rues: “If it were not for the ban, I would have earned Rs 600,000 by now. I lost three months’ salary,” he said.

But one month after the ban was lifted, the 50-year-old ex-soldier is still waiting because he is being given the runaround by his recruiter. He is not sure if and when he will leave Nepal. Continue reading

Safe immigration is a must

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In May 2016, while flying to Malaysia, I met Sohel. A 20-year-old boy from Barishal, the southern coastal district of Bangladesh, He was on the flight because he had been promised a well-paying job once he reached Malayasia by a labour broker in his village. For this verbal agreement, the broker took four hundred thousand Bangladeshi taka, a big amount given his family’s straitened circumstances. Sohel’s father had to sell a portion of their ancestral land to pay the broker. Sohel, however, had been given no job contract or legal document confirming his payment and employment. He didn’t even know what work he would do once he reached. As someone who could not read and could barely sign his name, Sohel’s vulnerability as a migrant worker was acute.

When I pressed for more information, I was shocked to learn that this was Sohel’s second foray at securing a job in Malayasia. He had made the same trip two months back, based on a similar promise made by the same broker.  Continue reading

The Cycle of Migration

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FOLLOWING FATHER: After his father Man Bahadur Limbu returned from Malaysia, 20-year-old Prakash Limbu went to work as a migrant worker.

Man Bahadur Limbu went to Malaysia in 2002, hoping to escape poverty and war. He worked in a factory for four years and was allowed to visit his family only once, in 2004.

He endured the burden of a loan, inhuman working conditions and separation from family. Man Bahadur, a fifth-grade dropout, ploughed his savings into education for his children so that they would never have to suffer what he did as a migrant worker.

However, his 20-year-old son Prakash Limbu (pictured) also dropped out of school in Grade 9, and went to Malaysia last year. Like his father, he is now working in a factory on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. Continue reading

Kerala drama enthused by Bengali migrant worker

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Migration has not always been merely flocking of workers. There has been migration of art and culture too. Here in Kerala, the southern state in India, Subratho a migrant worker hailing from West Bengal has become an actor in theatre. Subratho has been working as a cook in Pattambi. Realising his penchant in acting an armature drama troop has handpicked   him. In a very short span Subratho has  become an actor.

Epicentre of trafficking

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Long before the earthquake hit last year, the districts around Kathmandu were already hotbeds of trafficking

Charimaya Tamang was just 16 when she was drugged, trafficked and sold into a brothel in India. She was rescued, and returned to Nepal in 1996.

Twenty years later, Nepal has introduced multiple measures, most importantly the 1998 National Plan of Action (NPA) to eliminate human trafficking, to allow the government to stop the scourge. But although reduced, trafficking is still rampant in Sindhupalchok, Nuwakot, Dhading and other satellite districts of Kathmandu.

Tamang founded Shakti Samuha along with 14 other trafficking survivors, and fought against trafficking. Their organisation won the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2013.

“Things have improved, girls are now relatively more aware and protected than they were in my time,” says Tamang who was honoured by the US government in 2011 with the TIP (Trafficking in Person) Report Hero Acting to End Modern Slavery Award. Continue reading

Great migrant hope

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Indian migrant labourers in Jordon and other West Asian countries have little to hope for unless there is considerable labour reform.

For millions of Indians who travel to the Gulf and other West Asian countries for work, the kafala (sponsor) system is a known devil. As per the system, which operates right across the region, a worker is directly recruited and, subsequently, cared for entirely by his employer. On one hand, this system aids the migration process because once a worker is hired, all his costs for securing visa and other legal documentation, along with his living expenses, like food and accommodation, are paid for. As a result, from the 1960s onwards, there has been steady out-migration of job seekers, skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled, from states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and now, from Goa and Uttar Pradesh as well. The spurt in expatriate workers to the Gulf rode the 1973 oil crisis, and rising oil prices.  But the kafala system is also riddled with corruption, abusive practices and extreme exploitation because it places the well-being of the worker entirely on the firm or individual employing him, without any proper checks and balances. Continue reading

Cost of labour

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In this Sunday, June 15, 2014 photo, laborers nap on pieces of empty cardboard boxes during their midday break at the Dragon Mart Phase 2 construction site in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. A midday work ban goes into effect across the United Arab Emirates for construction workers and outdoor laborers, on Sunday, to protect them from the risks of direct sunlight and extremely high temperatures during the hottest summer months. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Sale of work visas in black market plays havoc with the lives of migrant workers

Foreign remittances sent by Pakistanis working abroad are around six per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and hint at the huge number of labour migrants who have left for foreign lands to earn their livelihood. If we go with official figures, more than eight million Pakistanis have officially proceeded abroad for employment between 1971 and 2015. An overwhelming percentage of this population is based in the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries (GCC), including Saudi Arabia. Continue reading

Out of work across the sea

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Thousands of Pakistani migrant workers are stranded in Saudi Arabia, and experts predict the situation will only worsen with the plummeting oil prices

Shahzad Hussain, father of a young son, belongs to district Sheikhupura in Punjab. Around six months ago, he borrowed Rs600,000 from his relatives and friends to go to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for work and to realise his dream of carving a fortune out there. Since his childhood, he was inspired by some of fellow villagers who had left for the greener pastures decades ago and earned loads of money there.

But once he reached Jeddah he went through a totally unexpected experience. The kafeel (local sponsor), he shares, confiscated his passport and demanded SAR5,000 for a job for him. While talking on the phone, he says, “I complied with this undue demand and was awarded work against a paltry salary of SAR800 but only for a couple of months.”

For the last three months, Hussain complains, he has been jobless, hence rendered penniless. He misses his family and says, “I want to go home but my passport is with my kafeel. He demands money from me if I want it back.” Continue reading