Stranded in a strange land | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 13, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:00 AM, July 13, 2020

Stranded in a strange land

15 Bangladeshis in Vietnam cry out for rescue

As trafficking of Bangladeshis to Vietnam came to the fore after 27 stranded nationals demonstrated in Hanoi last week, 15 others are crying out to be rescued from the Southeast Asian country.

They said they were taken to Vietnam in early January, with promise of regular jobs in shipyards and minimum monthly salary of 650 US dollars. They were charged Tk 4-5 lakh each.

They were all given smart cards, which means Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training, the regulatory body for overseas jobs sector in Bangladesh, issued them emigration clearance and licensed recruiting agents processed their visas, they said.

"After reaching Vietnam, we discovered that there is no fixed job for us. Bangladeshi brokers Atiq, Saiful and Jabbar sold us to a Vietnamese labour supply company called MPH," Faridul Islam, one of the 15 Bangladeshis stranded in Guntao area of Ho Chi Minh City, told this newspaper.

He said in the last six months, they were taken to many companies, neither of which could offer any job, except for a few days of employment.

"I was appointed to work for a glass factory for 22 days and was paid money equal to only Tk 7,000," Faridul, from Mymensingh's Trishal upazila, told The Daily Star over phone over the weekend.

Some others were employed by a few factories for a couple of days, but a percentage of the payments was pocketed by the brokers, he said.

"Throughout the last six months, we had to manage our own food and bring money from home to survive. I brought installments of Tk 50,000 twice," he continued.

Faridul said one of the Bangladeshis got sick recently, but there was no one to take care of him or take him to the doctor. The only thing the others could do was contribute to buy him medicine.

All of them, he said, are struggling every day, thinking about how they would manage to pay off the loans they took before going to Vietnam.

"Now, we're all dependent on the kind gestures of Vietnamese people. They think we got stranded because of the pandemic and are providing us food. Noodles are all that we eat twice a day now," Faridul said.

He said they had contacted the Bangladesh embassy in Hanoi and were supposed to return home on Jul 3, when 11 others were repatriated in a special flight arranged by Vietnam.

"However, the brokers did not give us our passports. So, we couldn't return, even though we were willing to pay airfare," Faridul said.

After news of stranded nationals demonstrating near the Bangladesh embassy on July 2 made headlines, they are now being kept at hotels.

But the brokers -- Atiq, Saiful and Jabbar -- are threatening the 15, telling them not to contact the media in Bangladesh. "They threatened us saying this is Vietnam, not Bangladesh, so be careful," Faridul said, pleading for help.

The Head of Chancery at Bangladesh embassy in Hanoi did not respond to repeated phone calls for comments on the issue. 

Bangladesh does not have any labour recruitment deal with Vietnam. However, using tourist and enterprise visas, recruiting and travel agencies send people there, said Rapid Action Battalion in Dhaka on Thursday, after arresting three directors of two recruiting agencies over illegally sending people to Vietnam.

The law enforcers also received names of eight Bangladeshi brokers who operate from Vietnam. 

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