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BANGLADESH: Our cheated workers in Libya
Date: 10/01/2010 - 09:53
It is quite clear that for all the steps taken or reassurances voiced regarding the safety of Bangladesh's workers abroad, they still remain prey to the whims of their employers as well as their recruiting agencies. The latest that we have on this front is the disconcerting news from Libya that 46 Bangladeshi workers there have been going without wages for the past six months. And how life can turn into a nightmare for men with no wages abroad can only be imagined. The harrowing experience of these men has been compounded by the fact that they have now been deprived of the food and water, scanty though they have been, so long provided to them by the firm which employed them. At this point, it is starvation that these workers face. Back home in Bangladesh, it is their families which struggle with the twin problems of paying the interest taken on the loans (taka two lakh for each worker) needed to send them abroad as well as keeping themselves going in the absence of any remittances from their hapless relatives in Libya.
That Bangladesh has in these past few years regularly come face to face with problems relating to its workers abroad has been an incontrovertible fact. In Malaysia, South Korea and the Middle East, our workers have with regrettable regularity found it hard to keep their jobs or get decent wages for the work they do. In most instances, it has been the recruiting agencies in Bangladesh together with the employing firms in the host countries which have been responsible for their predicament. Countries such as Malaysia and Bahrain even went to the extent of banning manpower from Bangladesh. When that happened, it was for ministers in the Bangladesh government to convince the authorities in these countries to reverse their decisions. Such steps certainly provided relief of some sort. But observing conditions in Libya, where as many as 24,000 Bangladeshi workers are sent in a year, one realises that our migrant worker-related troubles are far from over.
A proper, hands-on approach to the issue of migrant workers is today an absolute necessity. It is obvious that the measures adopted so far about streamlining the activities of recruiting agencies in the country and ensuring fair deals for workers abroad have not quite worked. If they had, these 46 workers would not be in the dilemma they are in today. We suggest that, as a first step, the Bangladesh embassy in Tripoli take up the issue with the Libyan authorities as also the employing firm concerned. At home, let the recruiting agency responsible for sending these workers abroad explain its failure to ensure the workers' wages and indeed their job-related security.
Source: The Daily Star
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