Exploitation of poor migrant workers

Dhaka,  Sat,  23 September 2017
Published : 11 Mar 2017, 20:04:36 | Updated : 11 Mar 2017, 21:28:50

Exploitation of poor migrant workers

What has been revealed by the Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Thursday last about the cost that the migrant workers are made to bear for securing jobs abroad is more or less known to most people. But the TIB report, titled "Good Governance in Labour Migration Process: Problem and Way Out", has adequately highlighted the enormity of the problem. One other aspect of the entire migration process brought to the fore by the report relates to bribes that the migrant workers pay to officials and employees of the manpower ministry and the Bangladesh Manpower and Employment Bureau (BMET). The payment is made to get all papers cleared before starting the journeys towards job destinations. 

The relevant policymakers often put the migration costs to a number of countries in less than one hundred thousand takas. But the reality is that a worker wanting to go to Saudi Arabia is required to spend on occasions an amount as high as Tk 1.2 million for visa. The visa for a less attractive destination like Oman costs at least Tk 0.3 million. The private recruiters reportedly spend far smaller amounts on procuring visas. Another notable feature of the manpower business is that a part of excess cost exacted from the poor jobseekers is shared by both local and foreign recruiters and employers.  The TIB report has estimated that more than Tk.52 billion was laundered to different labour-recipient countries in 2016 for buying visas. The laundered amount was equivalent to over 5.0 per cent of the remittances received in that year. 

The migrant workers are in most cases cheated in different ways by the private recruiters. The wages and facilities promised at the workplaces are often found missing and the poor workers are thrown into extreme hardship. Some Bangladesh mission officials are also allegedly involved in the job of fleecing the migrant workers. However, the jobseekers themselves are partly responsible for their misfortune. They do not make necessary queries and check authenticity of the job offers before paying visa fees and relevant other costs to the recruiters. The job-seekers tend to keep their recruitment secret as advised by unscrupulous recruiters and, ultimately, suffer. These people are generally unskilled and ignorant about the complex procedure involved in getting necessary clearance. They are thus vulnerable to all sorts of exploitation.

Sadly enough, many workers, who manage funds for paying to the recruiters by selling small patches of land they own or through borrowing from moneylenders or relatives, fail even to recover their investment throughout the period of their work contracts. The situation has now become even worse as the wages and benefits to foreign workers have been drastically cut in the Middle Eastern countries due to their recent falling oil revenues. This is evident from the substantial decline in remittance inflow despite a notable rise in outflow of manpower.

 None, including the association of recruiting agencies, disputes the existence of massive irregularities and foul play in migrant workers' recruitment. The TIB report listed the lack of good governance as one of the major reasons for prevalence of all the ills in the manpower export sub-sector. Hopefully, the manpower ministry would try to ease the complex visa clearance procedure and rein in errant manpower recruiters and their agents.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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