Acombination of worker-friendly deals and their effective implementation is a must to protect the rights of the Bangladeshi migrant workers, according to experts attending a social dialogue on Wednesday. We cannot agree more. Bangladesh has been in news lately because of its workers in different countries including Saudi Arabia and Malaysia being exposed to various problems including exploitation by the recruiting agencies, legal issues, etc. In Malaysia, according to a report by the Asia News Network, an estimated 7,000 Bangladeshi workers were held by the Malaysian police between January and August 2018, after they were “conned out of money” while trying to legalise their immigration status. This is just one form of exploitation that exists because of the unholy nexus between recruiting agents (and sub-agents) in both the labour-sending and labour-receiving countries.
While effective monitoring of the activities of the recruiting agencies can prevent exploitation to a large extent, often the problem has to do with the lack of foresight with which policies and agreements on overseas labour are formed, which fail to address the needs of the workers. The bilateral agreements, as an expert rightly pointed out at the meeting, should be based on equal rights and related international conventions. But in reality, this is hardly the case, as the upward trend in migration-related crimes globally will also suggest.
Bangladesh cannot ignore the call for a critical rethink of its overseas labour policies and agreements as the lives of close to one crore workers, sending home a staggering USD 15 billion every year, depend on the effectiveness as well as implementation of these deals. The government must find a better solution to the growing overseas labour crisis.