Zero migration cost move falters as middlemen charge women workers

Dhaka,  Mon,  21 August 2017
Published : 21 Jul 2017, 23:17:40

Zero migration cost move falters as middlemen charge women workers

Most of them forced to shell out Tk 50,000 to Tk 80,000 each for jobs in Gulf countries
Arafat Ara

The government's much-vaunted step to send female migrants at free of migration costs has almost fallen through because of intermediaries, insiders have said.

According to the agreements between Bangladesh and Middle-Eastern countries, women outbound workers will secure job there at zero-migration costs.

The aspirant female migrant workers were told that employers would bear all the necessary expenses such as passport, medical, airfare, recruiting agents' fees and many other facilities. Besides, Saudi-bound workers will get a one-month advance salary along with these facilities.

But the majority of women workers is forced to shell out minimum Tk 50,000 to Tk 80,000 each while going to the Gulf nations with jobs because middlemen were involved in different stages of migration process.

Talking to the FE, a number of women outbound workers said they were informed about the government's move to send women workers without any costs. But they gave money to the middlemen or sub-agents of manpower recruiting agencies as they refused to send them without cost.

Migration experts and sector insiders said that if the government is not able to cut or bring the middlemen under a legal framework, it is impossible to send women workers without migration cost.

Presently, middlemen or sub-agents are the primary channel of overseas jobseekers. Manpower recruiting agencies are taking the advantage of involvement of middlemen in the labour-sending process as they remain safe from legal action over money transaction, they said.

Lota knows very well about the government's move to send workers without migration cost.

But she was helpless when one sub-agent passed on to send her abroad without charges.

"Instructors at the pre-departure training classes advised me not to give a single penny to the recruiting agency. But how can we follow the instruction as there is no scope for avoiding middlemen," she said.

She eventually paid Tk 40,000 to go to Saudi Arabia.

Robin, husband of a female migrant worker, said he spent Tk 75,000 to send his wife to Saudi Arabia. A middleman named Shahjahan took this money to complete the procedures. The middleman charged this money to make passport, complete medical checkup, and do mandatory pre-departure training, said Robin who hailed from Velanagar village at Narshingdi.

"I gave money in installments. Although my wife did not take part in any training course, Shahjahan charged Tk 16,000 for the certificate," he said.

His wife, however, was forced to come back home two months after her departure, failing to cope with excessive work and physical torture.

Rahima spent Tk 80,000 to go to Oman. A middleman promised her to give a well-paid job. But she did not get any and returned home after seven months.

General Secretary of WARBE Development Foundation Faruque Ahmed said a large number of women workers were still going abroad spending money as they were recruited by middlemen.

"Through several case studies of women outbound workers, we understood that women were spending between Tk 30,000 and 50,000 to go abroad," he saidd.

He suggested that departments and district manpower offices maintain a list of middlemen so that they can be identified if workers are cheated.

Mr Ahmed also emphasised awareness campaign about not giving money to recruiting agencies.

The migrant rights activists said the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) has to be cooperative in protecting women migrants' interests.

There is no reason to spend money to go abroad as employing countries bear all expenses for women workers, said Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, a joint secretary-general of BAIRA.

Still, many women outbound workers cannot harness the opportunities properly because recruiting agencies depend heavily on middlemen.

He requested the government to introduce a mechanism to recruit workers directly.    

"If workers contact directly with us, we will be able to send them without migration cost," he added.

Jabed Ahmed, additional secretary of the ministry of expatriates' welfare and overseas employment, said that the Middle-Eastern countries bear all related expenses while hiring Bangladeshi women workers.

"If we get such cases of fraud, we will cancel licences of recruiting agencies will," he warned.       

The state-run Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET) statistics showed that

A total of 638,844 Bangladeshi women workers went abroad with housekeeping jobs from 1991 and until June 2017.

Most of them went to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Lebanon and Jordan.
Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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