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Tackling the greed harming migrant workers

Tuesday, 30 July 2019


The plight of the workers going abroad for jobs cannot stop making news again and again. Their difficulty starts from home and continues till they return, and including their stay overseas. Although several wage earners would complete their tenure, many come back dejected. The female workers going out as domestic helpers have a horrified story to tell on return in many cases. Every other day, flocks of them return with pale faces, with signs of bruise. Of special mention, however, has been the high cost of managing the start of the journey. This issue has never been solved in the last nearly half a century of our independent existence. Even though political leaders have been sincere, robust and energetic in their attitude in most cases, a hitch stops their efforts. There seems to be a quagmire somewhere that cannot be overcome and crossed.

The funny thing about it all is a continuous fattening of the recruiting agencies at the expense of those that are sent by them. It is lamentable that nine-tenths of the total cost of sending workers at times were swallowed by the recruiting agencies. While some figures say a cost of half-a-million taka is spent for obtaining a work-permit, actual sufferers in many cases have put that figure at eight hundred thousand taka. Nobody will allege that that civil society and government have not been alert to the evils committed. Endless efforts have been made, steps apparently taken and circulars issued to stem the tide of atrocities. It appears that our foot is stuck at many places. The peculiar nexus of senders at the top and the middlemen prowling in between them and the outgoing workers exacts a heavy toll in terms of smoothness in the whole operation. While neighbouring countries can send workers at a much more reasonable price, our efforts to achieve the same had failed again and again.

At a two-day conference at the capital's BRAC Centre Inn last week, various speakers sought to focus on the high cost of workers getting employment outside the country. The participants included rights activists, officials and migrant workers themselves. The Transparency International Bangladesh representative singled out that 'syndication and irregularities' are the main causes of a rise in costs. Extra charges in obtaining passport, immigration clearance, pre-departure training and visa stamping were mentioned in the discussion. Of especial mention was the visa cost. The vulnerability of the family members left behind have been aptly raised and discussed in the meeting. It is indeed satisfying to note that while most attention goes to the workers who left, the 'social cost' of the women and children staying at home because of such departure has also been brought to light. By urging the government to raise all migration-related issues at international forums, the speakers of the conference have shown an effective way out.

We urge the government to be as swift and unforgiving in matters of handling migration-related issues and the crimes committed in the process. We are not sure whether aspirants are fully aware of the scenario that awaits them abroad in most cases. The situation varies from country to country. They must know beforehand where they are going to and how. Besides, the tentacles of greed that exist in our villages among the middlemen to take advantage of the youth's ignorance and helplessness must be cut off. The conference's proposal to call for Declaration of 2021-2030 as a decade of migration in Bangladesh deserves consideration. This would necessitate a whole lot of steps to be taken including that of enacting new laws. The government must ramp up the safeguards for migration.