Jordan jobs made tough | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 09, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 09, 2011

Jordan jobs made tough

Recruitment restriction imposed after reports of labour strike, sexual abuse

Only after one year of lifting the ban, Jordan has tightened recruitment of Bangladeshi workers following a number of reports of sexual abuse of female workers and labour strike.
“Jordan's labour ministry is following strict rules regarding fresh recruitment of Bangladeshi workers. But we are trying hard to melt the ice,” Lubna Yasmine, first secretary (labour) of Bangladesh embassy in Amman, told The Daily Star over phone recently.
On an average 700-800 workers went to Jordan a month in the first nine months of this year, but the number came down to less than 100 in October and also in November, said Mohammad Abdullah, managing director of Bangladesh Overseas Employment Services Limited (BOESL), the state-owned recruiting agency.
Jordan considers the reports on sexual abuse of female workers and labour strikes a threat to free trade agreement between it and the US that allows duty-free access of Jordanian garments to US market. That is why Jordan is not allowing fresh recruitments from Bangladesh, said the officials.
This followed a number of events.
Over 400 Bangladeshi female workers returned home recently as the garments factory that had employed them-- Maintrend International -- closed down following a series of strikes. Over 100 Bangladeshi male workers of the factory filed a case seeking compensation from the factory owners.
Bangladeshi workers along with Jordanian and Chinese workers of the factory went on a strike for nearly a month from mid-September. Earlier in June, around 700 workers of the factory had gone on a strike, which is illegal in Jordan. The demands of the workers included an end to beatings, forced deportation if workers cannot reach mandatory production goals and arbitrary wage cuts, and better dormitories and adequate toilet facilities.
Moreover, the US-based Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights reported sexual abuses of Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan female workers by managers of Classic Fashion Apparel Industry Ltd, Jordan's largest garment exporter to the US.
Classic recruited around 2,000 Bangladeshi workers.
In June this year, a female worker from Bangladesh complained to Jordanian police that a Sri Lankan manager of Classic, Anil Santha, raped her twice in March and May at a hotel in Irbid, a Jordanian city bordering Syria.
Santha, 46, charged with rape by Jordanian prosecutors, faces up to 15 years in prison, if convicted. He denied the allegations.
There were also some cases regarding sexual abuse of Sri Lankan female workers by Classic managers.
The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights said Classic managers raped at least 300 young workers since 2007.
It has also launched an international online campaign demanding protection of foreign workers in Jordan, removal of abusive factory managers and compensation for raped workers.
According to an official at the Bangladesh mission in Amman, 49 Bangladeshi female workers ran away from Classic following publication of reports of sexual abuse.
Requesting anonymity, another official said a Bangladeshi national, Rafiqul Islam, involved with the labour rights watchdog in Amman, instigated female workers to escape and make false allegations in exchange for big amounts of money. Classic filed a case against him in this regard.
Some other Bangladeshi male workers were also involved in such instigation, the official said.
Against this backdrop, the Jordan authorities have become very cautious about recruiting workers from Bangladesh, he added.
Jordan, which is now has around 30,000 Bangladeshi workers, had banned recruiting workers from Bangladesh in 2006. Last year, it relaxed the ban allowing recruitment of only female workers in garment factories, but now that also appears to have come to a halt.
Expatriates' Welfare Secretary Zafar Ahmed Khan is going to Jordan for talks on the issue with the Jordanian authorities, officials said.

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