Recruiting agencies of Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia “will take responsibilities” of the Bangladeshi female migrant workers as long as they remain employed in the Gulf country, as per a decision taken at a joint technical committee meeting recently.
It was also decided at the meeting that recruiting agencies will also take the responsibility of female migrant workers awaiting return.
The JTC meeting between a Bangladesh delegation -- comprising officials of the expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment ministry, the Bangladesh ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and other embassy officials -- and the Saudi Ministry of Labour and Social Development took place in the Saudi capital Riyadh on November 27.
The expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment ministry yesterday held a press conference at its office to inform the media about the meeting’s outcome.
The meeting took place due to the incidents of female migrant workers returning home in recent times after facing abuse and torture in the Gulf country.
Addressing the conference, the ministry Secretary Salim Reza, who led the delegation from Bangladesh, said that Saudi authorities have assured that they will take various measures to ensure safety for the Bangladeshi female migrant workers there.
At the meeting, Bangladesh expressed its concerns regarding migrant workers’ safety, especially of the female workers, he said.
“They [Saudi authorities] also expressed desire and due sincerity to work together to resolve the problem,” he added.
Saudi authorities have stressed for joint initiative to stop “visa trading” in both countries, he said.
As per a decision of the meeting, police will not handover “runaway” female migrant workers to their sponsors, said Joint Secretary Zahid Hossain, of the ministry concerned, reading out a statement.
To ensure safety for female migrant workers, their information will be incorporated in an IT-based platform known as “Musaned”, he said.
The information will include female workers’ detailed addresses, dates of their arrivals and appointments with sponsors, exit information of returnee female workers, and full addresses of recruiting agencies and sponsors, Zahid said.
He added that if serious allegations over female worker’s safety is raised, the Saudi Department of Protection and Support will take prompt action.
Related labour welfare wing will also notify authorities concerned about the matter, he further said.
Zahid also said that the issue regarding signing an “agreement” between the two countries over recruiting Bangladeshi workers has also been discussed.
However, Saudi authorities informed that such an issue was still under “examination” and that they would discuss it further in the next JTC meeting, he added.
Secretary Salim Reza said 146 female migrant workers who wanted to return home from the Gulf country had been staying at a safe home governed by Bangladesh authorities there.
Some of them alleged they faced abuse and torture by their kafil (sponsor). Some others alleged that they were not provided with enough food, he said, responding to a query.
Besides, 34 more female workers were awaiting deportation, he added.
About 2.93 lakh female migrant workers have been sent to Saudi Arabia since 2015. So far, 8,507 of them have returned to Bangladesh.
If abused and tortured female migrant workers want to stay in Saudi Arabia to continue the legal battle against their abusive employers, the ministry will provide them with the required support and protection, including their stay at safe home, the secretary further said.
Meanwhile, ruling Awami League lawmaker Israfil Alam yesterday urged the ministry concerned to arrange adequate “shelter homes” for female migrant workers in Saudi Arabia so that they can stay there at night after working at the houses of their employers during the day.
“Arrange shelters for them even if it needs rented space,” Israfil, also chairman of Bangladesh National Parliamentarians’ Caucus on Migration and Development, said at a discussion organised by Bomsa, an organisation working for female migrant workers’ welfare, at Cirdap.
Massive reform is required to end the torture and abuse of female migrant workers, he added.