Death Toll of Bangladeshi Migrant Workers Abroad is on the Rise

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It seems that fire falls from the sky when the sun is shining. The sand under the feet is like burning coal. It feels like the whole body is burning out. In spite all these there is heavy workload. 

Jony, from Chandpur district of Bangladesh, has been working in Saudi Arabia for 16 years. How much did he get for this inhuman labor? He was saying, ‘Vai (brother), in the last 16 years I could not do anything much. Neither I can leave the country nor can I go back to my country. The temperature of Saudi Arabia is 48 Celsius now.’

Like Jony, many Bangladeshi migrant workers have been passing their days in hardships. Different challenges are the part of daily life. Hedayet Hossain, a migrant worker in Saudi Arabia, said, ‘It is seen that we work for one day. Then we have to sit idle for three days and we have to bear three days’ expenses with the earning of one day.’ 

Another expatriate worker Rahim Uddin was saying, ‘I had spent 6 Lacs taka to come here. When will I earn the money? If I cannot earn the amount of money, I will not go back.’ 

Jalil Biswas, another expatriate, works with Rahim. He said, ‘Except Bangla I do not know any other language like English, Hindi or Arabic. So, I have to face a lot of problems while working.’

Sadekul Islam went to Saudi Arabia at the age of only 17. He said, ‘I do not have much academic education. In my childhood my parents sent me here. As we do not have education, we have to do low level jobs.’

Being ignorant of the rules, many workers are rotting in the jail by breaking the rules. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about 10 thousand Bangladeshi migrant workers are in prisons in 38 foreign countries.Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Nurul Islam BSC said, ‘The workers who do not follow law in their own country are indifferent to follow the law abroad.’

He added, ‘If they do not follow the rules and law there they will have to go to jail. So, we tell our workers to abide by the rules and law of the country.’  

Instead of promised employment and wages foreign employers are employing the workers in different risky jobs in collaboration with the recruiting agencies. To do such risky work, the workers get wounded and killed. But recruitment agencies refuse to admit the allegation of torturing the workers and employing them in risky job.

Benojir Ahmed, president of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies(BAIRA) said, ‘Most of the workers who go abroad from Bangladesh are inefficient. But they are forced to do construction work. These works are risky. When the workers go abroad by learning these works, there will be very little risk.’

He also said, ‘Many workers tell lies. For example, a problem has happened. Law enforcement force will come at the workplace and arrest the worker. After that they lodge case and seize the passport.’

Many of the migrant workers alleged that the embassy often does not help them.

Hossain Ali has been working at Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. He said, ‘Bangladeshi airport also creates a lot of problems. Sometimes, they do not understand visas. They harass us. If they do not do all these, the condition of the migrant workers will be much better.’  

Jashim Uddin was saying, ‘I went to the embassy to be valid. But they could not do anything.’ 

Khadem Hossain said, ‘Bangladeshi Embassies do not pay heed to migrant workers.’  

Being aggrieved at the behavior of the Bangladesh Embassy officials Arshad Ali was saying, ‘The relation between visa agents and embassy officials are like that of police and thief. The Officials do not find anyone when they go to arrest the visa agents.’ 

Can the government ignore their liability of the helplessness and miseriesof the people who have strengthened our economy? Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Nurul Islam BSC said, ‘It is not true that our embassy does not co-operate always. Actually our workers do not have enough training and language proficiency.’

He also said, ‘We usually train our workers. But this is not enough. If we could give them 6 month training, the behavior of the workers would be better and social crimes would come down.’

Bangladesh migrant workers often become ill because they cannot get accustomed to the adverse weather conditions.They also have to suffer to take treatment. Because of risky works many migrant workers die prematurely every year. According to government data, in the last 10 years 30 thousand Bangladeshi migrant workers have died in different accident. Nonethelessadequate and timely cooperation of the government is not available to bring the body to their homeland.   

Migrant workers opine that different types of sufferings of the workers abroad will decrease if embassies come forward being more alert and co-operative.

Golam Mourtoza (pen name G M Mourtoza) is a Bangladeshi media activist based in Rajshahi where he has worked for several print, electronic and online media outlet. Email him at [email protected]

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