Returned expatriate workers: Who to take initiative of employment and rehabilitation

A section of the population of Bangladesh go abroad when they do not get any job in the country. But they face hassles at every step. While workers from India, Nepal and Sri Lanka can go abroad spending only Tk 15,000-20,000, Bangladeshi migrants spend a far higher amount. At the same time, many people turn into destitutes coming under the influence of unscrupulous agents.

Since the dissipation of the coronavirus pandemic last year, about 100,000 workers went abroad each month but many had to return home as they could not get jobs there. About 15 per cent of them did not get any job while about 20 per cent did not get jobs according to the contract.

Around 14 per cent workers returned home due to low wages while around 16 per cent had to return after being detained. Around 10 per cent of the returned did not have legal visas and around 12.8 per cent returned home due to physical illness. 

These were found in a research done by private research organisation, Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), done among 218 expatriate workers, who went abroad after 2020 and returned. A female worker who returned from Saudi Arabia alleged that her employer used to sexually harass her.

Though a number of female workers allegedly faced sexual abuse in some of the Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, apparently the government has not taken any effective step in this regard. Though the women worker, who brought the allegation, returned with the help of the embassy, many could not return. They undergo torture for month after month.

Due to the lack of transparency in the entire process of employment abroad, Bangladeshi workers are often abused and cheated. The first thing is why wouldn’t workers get work going abroad legally? If there is no work, how could they avail the expatriate worker’s card?

As much as the government policy makers are concerned about the remittances from expatriate workers, they are that much indifferent to the lives and future of the workers.

According to the managing director of government-owned recruiting agency Bangladesh Overseas Employment and Services Limited (BOESL), 99 per cent of the workers are sent by the private sector and it is difficult for them to verify everything.

So, what does the embassy and expatriate ministry do? The way the middle-man gangs are rampant across the country, mere awareness programmes will not be fruitful. Law violators have to be brought to book.

It is the responsibility of the government to provide rehabilitation and alternative employment for those who have returned from abroad. It is not only these workers who have returned destitute from abroad but also their families have also lost everything they have.

The survey revealed that 47 per cent of the workers returned home due to lack of valid documents. The question is, how did they travel without valid papers? Legal action should be taken against the concerned agencies.

It cannot be accepted by any means that the people, who would go abroad losing their wealths, will be humiliated at every step and falling prey to fraud. Isolated and scattered measures are not enough in this case.

The concerned agencies like expatriate welfare, Home affairs and foreign affairs ministries have to work coordinately. It is expected that they will work in a complementary manner, without blaming others.

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