Bangladesh, Pakistan, India urged to work together | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 15, 2007 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 15, 2007

Ensuring Rights Of Migrant Workers In Gulf States

Bangladesh, Pakistan, India urged to work together

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The labour sending countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan and India should work jointly to make sure that the labour receiving countries ensure the rights of the migrant workers of these countries in the Gulf, suggested Nabeel Rajab, a noted human rights activist in the Middle East, yesterday.
Describing the immense contribution of the migrant workers to the economy of the Gulf region and many of their deprivation of due rights, he said, “Bahrain will be in trouble if India and Bangladesh decide to pull out their workers. Why don't we put our conditions?”
“I encourage the embassies of these countries to work jointly, not one by one,” he said at a two-day workshop jointly organised by The World Bank (WB) and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) on 'Enhancing social protection of Bangladeshi migrants' at Radisson Water Garden Hotel in the city.
Nabeel Rajab, vice president of Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), said the economy of Bahrain is booming and it needs migrants, but nobody wants to address the violations of human rights they suffer.
There are 74,000 Bangladeshi workers in Bahrain now and everyone gets a monthly salary of $150 to $200, he added.
“Nobody wants to work on migrant workers. There is no civil society. We have problems in our society,” he said, adding the workers go to police following abuses, but of no avail.
Many Bangladeshi workers in Bahrain are undocumented and with fake visas and passports, are vulnerable to abuses, while many women who went to the country under cover of other jobs are forced to prostitution, he added.
The Bangladesh government however does not seem to take actions, the human rights activist said, adding: “I see all the Asian labour sending countries give more importance on money than their citizens.”
Terming recruiting agents of both the countries “just traffickers”, he said, “We, the NGOs have to put pressure on the government.” Thousands of cases of rights violations come to his organisation, but it cannot consider all, he said.
“We took some selected cases to highlight the issue of rights violations of the migrant workers,” Nabeel added.
Supporting Nabeel's recommendations, Dr Hamid Rashid, director general of Middle East Asia of the foreign ministry, said coalitions among the labour source countries could work for ensuring their rights.
Building bridges at the non-government levels and private sectors of the source and destination countries can also work as means of stopping rights violations of the workers.
Emphasising on reducing information gap of the expatriate workers, Salahuddin Akbar, deputy secretary of the expatriates' welfare ministry, said the government decided to engage competent legal retainers and employ welfare officers to provide legal support to the aggrieved workers and monitor their welfare.
WB Education Specialist Mark LaPrairie said Bangladesh must address the issues regarding the migrant workers who are cheated at home and exploited in the host countries where they are considered as marginalised people.
Syed Saiful Haque, chairman of WARBE, a migrants' rights organisation, in his presentation stressed mitigating the problems of the returnee migrants and using the Wage Earners' Welfare Fund effectively and initiate broad-based programmes to better utilize the remittances.
IOM Regional Programme Manager Aiko Kikkawa and Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training Director Nurul Islam also spoke at the workshop attended by migrants' rights activists and academics.

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