Exploitative migration cost frustrates rights bodies

Source: thedailystar.net; Photo: Basug archive

Migration costs are not coming down despite repeated government efforts over the years while an unethical nexus of brokers and recruiting agents are using unfair recruitment systems to exploit Bangladeshis, labour and migrant rights activists stated in frustration yesterday.

It is sadly true despite the fact that the government fixed country-wise rates, added lawmaker Israfil Alam at a discussion, “Business Mechanism Meeting with Private Sectors Towards GFMD”, in a hotel in the capital.

Warbe Development Foundation organised the discussion with assistance from British Council’s Promoting Knowledge for Accountability Systems.

The government set the migration cost per person to Saudi Arabia at Tk 1.65 lakh but in reality a worker pays at least Tk 4 to Tk 5 lakh, he lamented while addressing the programme as the chief guest.

The recruiting agents are violating government directives in different ways, said Israfil, adding that the costs were “very tolerable” in neighbouring India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

He said there should be a system where the payments are made through bank accounts of government-approved recruiting agents, which would ensure transparency and accountability.

Bangladeshi workers never protest, even if they are forced to work extra hours without overtime pay and if their salaries are delayed by 15 days, while Indians protest instantly, he said. He urged the government to ensure compliance to regulations towards ensuring safe and fair recruitment at labour markets.

Wajedul Islam Khan, secretary general of Trade Union Centre, alleged that the recruiting agents cheat workers by sending them abroad with false job promises.

Azharul Huq, an additional secretary at the expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment ministry, said the business sector remains involved in “visa trading” which increases the costs.

Shameem Ahmed Chwodhury Noman, joint secretary of the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies, did not say anything about the costs.

Warbe Development Foundation Chairman Syed Saiful Haque chaired the programme while its director, Jasiya Khatoon, and KM Ali Reza, deputy chief at the expatriates’ welfare ministry, each presented a paper.

Syed Mohammad Kamal, country manager, MasterCard Singapore Holding Pte Ltd, and Mahfuzur Rahman, managing director, Hotel Orchard Suites also spoke.

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