Labour migration experts have called for stronger monitoring of Bangladeshi migrants' situation abroad and better negotiation on labour deals to protect their rights.
“While it is important to have good MoUs, their implementation is equally important,” said Rahnuma Khan, officer-in-charge at ILO Migration Project, at a social dialogue on MoUs/bilateral agreements. The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment jointly organised the dialogue at the ministry auditorium.
The observations come at a time when there is a rising trend of malpractices in various countries, including Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, though they have memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with Bangladesh. There are some one crore Bangladeshis working abroad and sending home $15 billion a year, but the reports of migrants returning penniless and exploited are frequent.
Rahnuma Khan said there are joint committees comprised of officials from Bangladesh and the labour-receiving countries. These committees do not hold regular meetings, which is very important to address the issues of labour abuses, she stressed.
The bilateral agreements on overseas labour should be based on equal rights and related international conventions, she added.
“The negotiators need to have strong evidence, information and expertise for a strong deal,” the ILO official said in a keynote presentation.
In another presentation, Masuma Parvin, deputy secretary at the ministry, said as per the MoU with Malaysia, the maximum recruitment cost of a Bangladeshi worker is Tk 1.6 lakh. However, as per media reports, workers pay double or more than the set cost, she said.
Due to the high migration cost, migrants have to suffer in the destination countries, she added.
Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Secretary Rownaq Jahan said the Global Compact of Migration was signed in Morocco last week to promote cooperation among countries to protect migrant rights.
“We have heard that many countries send their workers abroad at zero cost. We need to learn how they are doing it and follow the same path,” she said.
Awaz Foundation Executive Director Anisur Rahman Khan suggested that the government immediately takes measures to rehabilitate and reintegrate migrants affected by the brokers' fraudulence or abused by employers.
The ministry's Additional Secretary Aminul Islam said Bangladesh may not be as economically powerful as those of the labour-recruiting nations, but it cannot allow the Bangladeshi workers abroad to be abused. “We need to have strong MoUs and their effective implementation,” he said.
Debate for Democracy Chairman Hassan Ahamed Chowdhury Kiron stressed the need for training in demand-driven skills for those migrating abroad.