Migrant Workers from India, Pakistan Bound by Common Labor Concerns

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In a cramped house in a busy street in Deira Dubai, Hindu migrant workers from Gujarat and Muslim migrant workers from Pakistan live and work together. They celebrate the holy month of Ramadan as Pakistani Muslims distribute sweets and fruits to their Hindu co-workers. They cook and eat together. They chant the Gita and the Quran side by side.

Thoughts of nationhood and religion take a back seat as these migrant workers, far from home, are bound by common and more pressing issues of poverty, unemployment and exploitation.

(Originally aired in the People TV, India.)

Despite Jordan’s Efforts, There Is A Long Way To Go To Ensure Protection For Domestic Workers

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South Asian workers from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh working in Jordanian garment factories in Dhulail Industrial City. Courtesy: Rina Mukherji.

When Meilani Yuswandari, an Indonesian from Jakarta, completed her higher secondary education, she began looking for work abroad. During her search, Yuswandari met a recruiting agent who assured her of an office job in Jordan. But when she reached the country in 2011, she realised that the office job she was promised did not exist. Instead, her agent had found her a job as the domestic help of a large family, and she was forced into work she had not agreed to. Yuswandari had to cook, clean and manage all household chores, and was not allowed to leave the house under any circumstances. “The agent took away my passport and passed it on to my employer,” Yuswandari told me when I spoke to her last month. “When I asked for it, she”—her employer—“said she was keeping it safely for me. But eventually, she claimed to have lost it.” Continue reading

MRPs still elusive for Bangladeshi migrant workers

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Bangladeshi migrant workers are finding it difficult to get Machine Readable Passports (MPR). They are desperately trying to contact agents or the High Commission. If they do not have an MRP passport by 31 July they will lose their job and could be arrested for being an undocumented/ illegal migrant worker. The High Commission says it can manage up to 3000 MRP passports daily.

(As broadcast on Ekkotar TV, Bangladesh.)

Lost and found on TV

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A Malayalam TV show has helped track down as many as 530 missing migrant workers in the Gulf. For the families of the missing, the show is a saviour

A cousin’s sudden suicide within days of taking up an engineer’s job in Muscat saw Rafeek Ravuther wake up to the dark side of Gulf migration. Until then, like most Keralites, he had only known of the remittances that made his state prosperous, with holiday resorts springing up at every step.

Kerala has contributed the largest number of migrant workers to the oil-rich Gulf region. More than two million skilled and unskilled Keralites work in West Asia and make the majority of the expatriate population in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar. Continue reading

Despite Labour Laws, South Asian Workers Suffer in Jordan’s Billion Dollar Industries

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South Asian workers from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh working in Jordanian garment factories in Dhulail Industrial City. Courtesy: Rina Mukherji.

Unlike other countries in West Asia, Jordan lacks petrodollars. In 1996, an agreement with the US gave the country preferential duty-free and quota-free access to the American market. This was the first such agreement the US ever had with an Arab nation and saw the establishment of Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZ) – essentially, industrial zones created to service the export market. In 2000, a free trade agreement with the US furthered the relationship and also brought Jordan closer to Israel. As per the terms of the agreement, around 8% of the value addition for the products manufactured in the QIZs must come from Israel.

Today, garment exports earn Jordan upwards of $1.5 billion (as per 2015 figures), with earnings slated to further rise in 2016. Currently, there are 75 garment factories in Jordan’s five major QIZs, with 60,000 workers. Nearly 75% of the workforce here hails from South Asian countries like India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Continue reading

Listen to the migrant workers

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If you listen to the migrant workers attentively, you will realize that despite not being dangerous they themselves are in danger unfortunately, and illogically! Millions of Bangladeshi migrant workers have been working sincerely in different sectors in many countries. They are sending foreign remittance worth billions of taka to Bangladesh. But it is unfortunate that many of them do not get satisfactory help and service from the Bangladesh embassies and high commissions in the countries they are working. They are even deprived of their human rights sometimes. We must keep in mind that first they are the citizens of our country Bangladesh and then they are the migrant workers. That is why they have the equal rights like other citizens. Continue reading

Hounded out of Malaysia

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LEAVING IN DROVES: Nepali migrant workers queuing up for flights to Kathmandu at Kuala Lumpur International Airport last week.

Among the factors dissuading Nepalis from working in Malaysia is widespread harassment and robberies by locals

After getting his boarding pass for a Kathmandu-bound plane, Basanta Basnet, 22, looked relaxed at Kuala Lumpur airport last week. He was going home after four years in Malaysia. When asked if he plans to return, he replied firmly: “No way.”

Basnet is from Dang district, and was only 19 and newly-married when he first went to work in a poultry farm in Pedas in Malaysia. From the beginning he was often beaten up and robbed by local Tamils. The last straw was when a fellow-Nepali worker was beaten to death by a local youth when he resisted a robbery attempt.

“We could not save him, but we collected money to send his body back to Nepal,” he said. Continue reading

Differences over cost of recruitment

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Private manpower recruitment agencies claim that migration costs will be around 2,00,000 Bangladeshi Taka when the Malaysian market opens. Recruitment agencies told Ekattor TV that they have paid bribes every step of the recruitment process from Malaysia to Bangladesh. But the Bangladeshi government maintains that the cost of recruitment will be less than 80,000 Taka.

(As broadcast on Ekattor TV, Bangladesh.)

SAARC initiative and migrant labour

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The 2014 South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit took an initiative on the issue of migrant labour. It sought to ensure safety, security, and wellbeing of their migrant workers in the destination countries outside the SAARC region.

This was to be done with the help of international bodies such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) that are already working towards delivering a fairer deal for migrant labourers around the world.

South Asia is one of the major labour-exporting regions. Millions leave India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Pakistan in search of work. A majority of these migrants are semi-skilled or unskilled. Only a small number are highly skilled professionals. Most migrants are headed for six major destinations in the Middle East. Continue reading