Manpower export to Iraq resumes
After a long six-year interval since the Iraq war in 2003 labour migration to Iraq has resumed with 50 workers joining their jobs in that country while another 200 will join them soon.
“Those fifty workers joined their jobs two weeks back. Around 200 more are scheduled to leave soon. Besides recruiting agencies got over 10,000 job demands,” Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Secretary Elias Ahmed told The Daily Star on November 16.
This comes as good news for the country, as the number of workers going abroad has declined by around half percent mainly due to global economic recession. Last year 8.75 lakh workers got overseas jobs but the number was only 4.12 lakh until November 5 this year.
The expatriates' welfare ministry, however, approved only around 2,000 of these job demands in Iraq. Most of the demands are in the construction sector, he said.
The government, however, is cautious about allowing recruiting agencies to send workers to the war-ravaged country, as the Bangladesh embassy in Baghdad is yet to start functioning though the ambassador and labour attaché have already been appointed on contract basis.
“Initially, we are approving a small number of workers on trial basis because we want to know the exact working conditions for our workers there,” Ahmed said.
“The ambassador will leave for Baghdad by November 30,” he said. The high official said once the embassy starts functioning, it is hoped that Bangladesh can get a strong hold in the Iraqi labour market.
The recruiting agencies, however, said there is a huge demand for workers in Iraq and therefore the government must act promptly to use the potential, especially when Bangladesh has witnessed major decline in labour migration this year.
Previous experiences suggest that lack of efficiency of the Bangladesh missions overseas in checking the authenticity of the jobs and addressing labour problems aggravated the troubles.
Labour troubles in Malaysia deteriorated in 2007 and 2008 because of such negligence. The then labour councillor of Bangladesh in Malaysia, Talat Mahmud Khan, however, had said that it was difficult for him alone to visit all the workplaces and check the authenticity.
Asked if the government is considering these issues, Elias Ahmed said they were aware and taking care of such issues. The labour attaché appointed would surely have to go through comprehensive briefings, he noted.
Meanwhile, early October an Iraqi Labour Minister Mahmoud al-Sheikh Radhi declared resisting recruitment of foreign workers citing their own unemployment problems.
The minister said many foreign workers including Bangladeshis and Indonesians had already arrived in Iraq as security situation improved there despite 16 percent unemployment rate among the Iraqis, reported the Al Jeeran, an Iraqi online newspaper on October 7.
Following such a news item, the expatriates' welfare ministry on October 12 sent a letter to the Bangladesh mission in Jordan to check the genuineness of the information but until yesterday there was no response.
“We hope things will become clear when the Bangladesh ambassador goes there and starts functioning,” said another official at the expatriates' welfare ministry.