Workers returning in alarming numbers
The number of Bangladeshi workers returning from South East Asian and Gulf countries is increasing every day, as their employers cannot afford to employ or pay them due to the economic meltdown.
Many returned from the United Arab Emirates said their employers sent them on long vacation due to the slowdown especially in construction sector.
Around 300 workers returned home in the early hours yesterday. About 160 workers came from Malaysia, 90 from Singapore and 40 from the Maldives on board a Malaysian Airlines plane around 1:00am.
Around 90 more workers were scheduled to depart from Singapore yesterday night.
“The number of workers returning home from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia has increased significantly since mid-January,” said an official at Zia International Airport (ZIA).
A source said the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET), which records the number of deported workers and those with out-passes, reported that in February 8000 workers returned from different countries, while the number was only 4000 in January and 3500 in December last year.
Out-pass is a document issued by the Bangladesh missions abroad when the workers become illegal immigrants after visa expiration or are taken to custody for violation of laws.
Till March 11, over 3000 workers were deported with out-passes. BMET, however, is not keeping records of those returning with proper documents for long vacation.
Nayeem, a worker who just returned from Malaysia yesterday, said he went to Malaysia two years ago, but was provided with jobs only for six months. For the rest of the time, his agents kept him and many other Bangladeshis confined in different places.
“I did not receive any cooperation from our High Commission,” he told The Daily Star, adding that his employer did not renew his work permit though he gave assurance repeatedly.
Another returnee Abul Kalam said he went to Singapore last March, but was not provided with any jobs.
“We were 500 Bangladeshis altogether.
Empower, our manpower agency, provided us with food and lodging for two months, but thereafter they took no care of us,” he said.
The employers did not pay levy for the workers. So the workers became irregular, Kalam said. Thousands of other workers would also come for the same reason, Kalam told The Daily Star.
Nasreen Jahan, labour councillor of Bangladesh High Commission in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), also said that job opportunities were declining in the UAE.
She said many construction companies have already slowed down their activities making workers uncertain about their future.
“We are conferring with the companies so that they temporarily allow our workers to go home on long vacations, instead of terminating them, so that the companies could re-employ them immediately after the recession is over,” Nasreen said.
She said in some cases, on some of the workers' demand their regular visas were cancelled to allow them return home. She however said there was no record of such returnees.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the financial meltdown, overseas employment has also come down by around 50 percent since December last year.
Contacted, Expatriate and Overseas Employment Minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said they were aware of the facts and therefore decided to visit these countries so that the workers could be reassigned to other jobs or kept in the existing companies even at minimum salaries.
“We also directed our foreign missions in this regard,” he said.