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.

Migrant Workers in the Gulf Feel Pinch of Falling Oil Prices

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A labour camp in Dubai. Workers are allocated sleeping quarters based on nationality, and the number of occupants may be as high as eight per room. Credit: S. Irfan Ahmed/IPS

In the Al Quoz industrial area of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a number of medium and large-sized buses can be spotted transporting workers clad in company uniforms to distant worksites early in the morning. In the evening or, in certain cases, late at night, these workers are brought back to labour camps in the same buses.

At the camps, the migrant workers barely have time to rest before the next workday. They huddle inside small, dingy quarters and the number of occupants may rise up to eight per room. With their belongings stuffed into every corner, they hardly have space to move and are vulnerable to catch infections from each other. Their day starts too early as they have to cook their food to carry to the site and ends late due to long journeys amid frequent traffic jams. Continue reading

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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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

Bangladesh workers abroad face hard time

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Mizanur Rahman, a mason at a construction firm in Saudi Arabia, is worried about losing his job. His employer has recently expressed inability to continue some of the ongoing projects due to financial crisis.

The lone breadwinner of a five-member family from Faridpur cannot even begin to imagine what would happen to his family if he loses the job.

“We are not getting our wages for the last six months. We are still working for the company, hoping the situation would change soon,” said Mizanur, who has been working for Saudi Oger, one of the largest construction firms in Saudi Arabia, for around four years.

“But there is no sign of improvement… Rather, our employer has told us that he may suspend some of the projects for fund crisis,” the 40-year-old migrant worker told The Daily Star over the phone from the kingdom yesterday. Continue reading

Agents promise false to Bangladeshi migrant workers

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Bangladeshis who came to Malaysia before August 2015 as a tourist or labourer can apply for legal worker status. But agents are making money by promising all migrant workers that they can help them obtain legal status. Even the main company involved with the legalization process of migrant workers, MYEG, is taking advantage of workers.

(As broadcast on Ekattor TV, Bangladesh.)