Corruption by the travel agencies and torture by the employers is damaging the manpower export sector of Bangladesh.
Golapi Begum (30) is a returned migrant worker. She went to Saudi Arabia last year before Ramadan with dreams of a better life. But couldn’t survive there due to excessive work pressure and mental (sometimes physical) torture. She is not alone in this never-ending list of returned migrant workers. Mansura Begum, Jamal Hossain, Saiful Islam, Shafi Ullah, Golam Sorowar and many other went abroad with the dream of a better life. But all of their dreams turned into ashes when they were thrown out of the countries they went to. Most of them got rehabilitated with the help of Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program (OKUP) after returning to Bangladesh.
But why do these migrant workers return? Shakirul Islam, one of the founding members and the chairman of OKUP believes that the main reason is the corruption within the system. The people involved in the whole recruitment process promises the workers a good job and a decent life. But upon arriving at the foreign country, they don’t get the jobs they were promised. Sometimes, the job they get is rather difficult or a completely different one. Mostly some job they were not prepared to do at all.
Golapi Begum went to Saudi Arabia as a domestic worker. She doesn’t know the name of the agency who sent her to Saudi Arabia. She only knows the location of the agency’s office and the name of the broker who helped her with the procedure. According to her, a broker named “Sobuj” and an agency at “Akram Tower” (near Bijaynagar Water Pump) promised her a job at an old man’s house in Madina. But after going to work there, she was forced to work at three (sometimes four) different houses. By doing so, she developed an extreme headache. While letting the family she was staying with know about a headache, they’ve neglected her headache and slapped her on her head. The family didn’t give her proper food. She had to spend night after night with an empty stomach.
At one stage, the neighbors heard her crying and informed the local authority. They’ve done an x-ray of her head, gave her medicine, called the family she was living with, told them not to hit her again and give her proper food. But they didn’t listen to the authority. This time, the level of torture increased. Getting slapped on the face and head turned into a regular routine. She tried to stay for a few more days and then escaped the house when the torture became unbearable. She went to the police for help. But rather than helping her out like the last time, they’ve locked her in. She was in a Saudi jail for a month. After a month of staying in the jail, some police informed the Bangladeshi Embassy about her and they sent her back to Bangladesh. She didn’t get the salary she was promised. Golapi Begum still cannot do anything because of a headache she developed while staying there.
Another migrant worker, Md Shafi Ullah (35) have another story to tell. He was sent to Qatar to work as a cleaner at an organization named “Tanjis Co”. He went there on 12th February of the ongoing year and was forced to return on 4th of April. The reason behind this sudden return was his medical report. According to Shafi Ullah, a broker named “Sohel” at “Reaz Travels” hid his medical report while sending him to Qatar. He had a lungs condition which was detected in the medical report. Sohel didn’t reveal this information knowing that Shafi Ullah won’t get any work permit and he won’t get paid as well. When the authority he was working with did another medical test at Saudi Arabia, they’ve discovered the health issue, and therefore sent him back. Shafi Ullah doesn’t have any complaint regarding “Tanjis Co”. He got paid in time and the behavior of the supervisor was good. He did file a complaint against the travel agency after returning Bangladesh. The broker was captured two times by the police and was released on a bribe, later on, he said.
The two stories above may look different, but they have one thing in common; which are the brokers not keeping their promise. The corruption within the system is making it difficult for the migrant workers to stay abroad and keep working for a longer period of time. Golapi Begum didn’t get the job or the environment she was “promised” by the broker and Shafi Ullah’s broker hid his medical report from the authority. Golapi Begum couldn’t tell us the exact amount of money she had to spend to get to Saudi Arabia. But Shafi Ullah could. He paid four lakhs taka from his savings to the travel agency, and all of his money gave him nothing when he was thrown out of Qatar.
The issue of brokers not keeping their promises or hiding information during the visa process isn’t anything new. It’s been going on for a long time, according to OKUP chairman Shakirul Islam. Failing to fix this problem is destroying this whole manpower export sector. But what can be done to fix this? There is a lot of frustration hidden within the answer to this question.
There is still no information available regarding the number of returned migrant workers. BMET (Bureau of Manpower, Employment, and Training) has information regarding how many migrant workers are going abroad each year. OKUP has its own research on the deceased migrant workers. But no research was done by any organization or the government that gives the exact number of alive migrant workers returning to Bangladesh. The executive director of OKUP, Md. Omar Faruque Chowdhury said that OKUP cannot conduct such types of research as it requires data and equipment only government have. Shakirul Islam also thinks that the only institute that can conduct such a research is the government itself. But they are not willing to do it.
Although the total number of returnee migrant workers can’t be identified because of the lack of proper research, OKUP did create an infographic named “Migration and Health: Bangladesh Context” with the database of 215 returnee migrant workers compiled by themselves, NASP and MoWEOE. The findings clearly represent the mental and physical torture migrant workers go through. According to those findings, 19% of the workers become lame and sick due to employer’s torture, while 16% suffer from different sickness for excessive workload and 10% are infected with different kinds of SRH infection. 30% of the returnee migrant workers and spouses were also identified as HIV positive in 2015.
[[Have anything to say? Share your valuable comment and opinions with us via the comment section below. Don’t forget to like our facebook page to stay connected with us.]]