'Ethical recruitment in overseas job stressed to strengthen economy'

Lawmakers, bureaucrats, civil society leaders, representatives from international organisations and recruitment agencies on Wednesday called for ensuring fair and ethical recruitment of the overseas migrant workers to protect the national interest and strengthen the national economy.

Bangladeshi migrant workers have been forced to pay high migration cost over the years and subsequently they were earning low wages and were often facing various problems abroad due to lack of their adequate skills and proper trainings, they said.

They made the remarks while speaking at the workshop on “Fair and Ethical Recruitment: National and International Instrument Perspective” organised by WARBE Development Foundation with the support of International Labour Organization and Switzerland at InterContinental Hotel in Dhaka.

Bangladeshi migrants on an average pay their 17.6-month wages for recovering their migration cost though they are recruited under two-year contracts for the overseas jobs, the speakers mentioned.

Bangladesh receives remittances of $22 billion annually which is the lifeline of the national economy.

Moderating the workshop, Parliamentarians’ Caucus on Migration and Development’s secretary general Mahjabeen Khaled highlighted the works of the caucus on migration as it has been raising voices for migrants’ protection from local arena to national, regional and international level.

In his welcome address, Parliamentarians’ Caucus on Migration and Development’s chairperson Shameem Haider Patwary said that multi-sectoral approaches should be taken for the labour migration sector.

“Political will for ethical recruitment is very necessary to achieve the target,” he said, adding that voluntary ethical codes should be there for the country’s recruiting agencies.

If migration justice and ethical recruitment are in place, it can boost the remittance flow, he added.

In opening remarks, deputy country director of ILO Gunjan Dallakoti said that overseas migration should be based on zero cost and the public and private sectors should be working together to ensure fair recruitment

“We see that the migrant workers come from lower strata of the society and they pay the high cost for migration,” he said.

Md Nurul Islam, former BMET director and migration expert, said that overseas employment and migration has been very important for Bangladesh as remittance has been one of the three pillars of economy.

“About 90 per cent of migrants from Bangladesh go to work to nine countries mainly in Middle East, he noted.

He listed prevailing challenges in Bangladesh migration including high migration cost, visa trading, involvement of middlemen, lack of awareness, shortage of manpower in migration management, sending remittance through illegal channels, problem regarding wages, skill gap, criminal activities and runway.

Nurul Islam stressed the need for taking adequate reintegration programmes to ensure the sustainable migration in Bangladesh.

Former senior secretary Zafar Ahmed Khan who had once served as secretary of expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment ministry, emphasized on concerted efforts of all stakeholders to take the migration sector ahead.

“It is a continuous process. We have to do works truly for our migrants who are sending remittances to protect the interest of our country,” he said.

Speaking as chief guest, chairman of parliamentary Standing committee of labour and employment ministry, Mujibul Haque Chunnu, said that the government should pay due respect to the migrant workers as they were working for the country.

He criticized the syndicates in recruitment of workers in migration. “If the policymakers of the state are involved in recruitment agencies, how fair and ethical recruitment is ensured.”

He said that 25 agencies were only allowed for sending workers to Malaysia, it has not been fair process of recruitment. All licensed recruitment agencies should get equal privileges, Chunnu said.

Speaking at technical session, recruiting agencies Oikkya Parisad president Tipu Sultan said that recruiting agencies have sent millions of migrants abroad and they played significant role in the migration sector.

“Real problems should be identified and then solved to ensure fair and ethical recruitment for the migrants,” he said, adding that syndication was the main mechanism that deprived the migrant workers from their ethical rights.

WARBE Development Foundation chairman Syed Saiful Haque said that employer-pay-model should be introduced to cut migration cost and he called for stopping any kind of syndication in recruitments.

International standard on recruitment system should be applicable of sending migrants from Bangladesh, he said.

Lawmakers Rana Mohammad Sohail, Aroma Dutta, Ahsan Adelur Rahman and Shamsun Nahar, and former joint secretary Kazi Abul Kalam, Shamajtantrik Labour Front president Razequzzaman Ratan, Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) leader Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, BAIRA member Mohammad Fakrul Islam and WARBE DF director Jasiya Khatoon also spoke.