The overwhelming majority of the manpower recruiting agencies, according to a report published in this paper last Saturday, avoided submitting the list of their respective agents or intermediaries, who are popularly known as dalals, in compliance with a government directive.
Only 129 out of more than 1,400 officially recognised recruiting agencies submitted the lists to the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET) within the extended deadline until June 30 last. The first deadline had expired on March 31. There are over 400 unauthorised recruiting agencies, according to industry insiders.
The objective behind the government move was to get the intermediaries in manpower business registered and help check the malpractices indulged in by a section of manpower recruiters.
The pious initiative, it seems, has failed because of the non-cooperation of the recruiting agencies. Any further extension of the deadline is unlikely to produce any tangible outcome.
That some manpower recruiters would be reluctant to furnish lists of their agents is nothing surprising. But the scale of unwillingness seems to be very high.
It is no secret that manpower recruiting agencies are largely dependent on intermediaries or agents. The latter group of people works silently in towns and villages to lure people to come to the recruiting agencies and take the baits of foreign employment.
There is no denying that manpower recruiting agencies have been major providers of jobs abroad. They work relentlessly to locate employment opportunities, primarily in the Middle Eastern countries. So, their contribution to the country's remittance income, which is now one of the main pillars of the economy, is undeniable.
But their good work is very much stigmatised by some unscrupulous recruiters who often cheat innocent job seekers, taking recourse to fraudulent means. Some of them are even engaged in the heinous job of human trafficking.
Stories of the death of job seekers in high seas or freezing vans, while being transported to Europe often hit the news headlines. But for lack of actions by the government against the dishonest manpower agents or recruiters, such malpractice has been on the rise.
The network of dalals is very strong and extensive. The manpower recruiting business does not exist without them. The network members get a commission from the manpower recruiters for each recruit. The dalals are very skilful in the job of motivating clients. They have one advantage--- millions of unemployed and unskilled youths wait in long queues almost everywhere to be exploited. Not just men, women are also there to take the manpower recruiters' bait.
Until recently, stories of deprivation and fraud involving male expatriate workers have been common. But similar stories about female workers being inhumanly tortured or sexually abused by their employers in foreign countries have been emerging lately. Dishonest recruiters have been trafficking women too. The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) has arrested two persons a couple of days back, allegedly, for being involved in the trafficking of women to Iraq and its neighbouring countries.
A section of dishonest manpower recruiters has been responsible for causing untold sufferings to poor and innocent people seeking jobs abroad. The job seekers are usually unemployed and found to be desperate to find jobs in the Gulf countries. The dalals take advantage of their innocence and desperation. Not only do some recruiting agencies force the job seekers to pay many times more than the officially fixed recruitment fees, but also push the latter into all sorts of troubles.
The ground is fertile for unscrupulous recruiting agencies to indulge in all sorts of malpractices and irregularities. The official actions against the wrong-doers have been scanty and the job seekers are always ready to swallow the wrong pills.
Maybe, manpower recruiting agencies, good or bad, do not want to risk their business by providing the lists of their agents or intermediaries. In most cases, the agents are freelancers and they do not have allegiance to any particular manpower recruiting agency.
The ball is now in the government's court. Its order relating to the submission of lists of intermediaries has not been followed by most manpower recruiters, despite an extension of the deadline once.
Former secretary-general of the BAIRA (Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies) talking to the FE felt that recruiters should have submitted the lists of agents to the BMET. Those who want workers to be sent in a safe and orderly manner have provided their lists, he said, meaning that more than 90 per cent of the recruiters are not willing to follow the safe mode.
Enough is enough. It is high time the manpower ministry took some stern actions against the dishonest manpower recruiters and their agents. Sitting in Dhaka or some other places in the country, it is not possible to feel the agonies and sufferings of the expatriate workers in foreign countries. The government should ask its relevant departments not to offer any service or cooperation to agencies that have failed to submit lists of agents for registration.