Published on 12:00 AM, August 12, 2021

Address migrant workers’ wage theft claims: experts

Experts at a webinar yesterday urged the government to address migrant workers' wage theft claims at regional forums as well as during bilateral meetings with host countries.

Besides, the issue of wage theft can be addressed before the host countries via international and UN agencies working on migration, they said.

Bangladesh Civil Society for Migrants (BCSM), and Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) jointly organised the webinar which saw the national launch of the study report "Addressing Systemic Challenges of Wage Theft: Bangladesh Covid-19 Returnees from the Gulf States".

Surveyed by BCSM member organisations with support from Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), the report was earlier shared regionally at a webinar on July 18.

According to its findings, 1,160 Bangladeshi migrant workers who have returned home from six Gulf countries after February 2020 have lost on an average about Tk 1.8 lakh in wage and other entitlements amid the pandemic.

Of the returnees, 67.7 percent said they did not receive due wages regularly after February, 2020, says the report.

The highest amount of loss a returnee migrant incurred was $7,063 and the lowest $35, it says.

Seven BCSM member organisations, including RMMRU, conducted the survey in 45 districts between March 25 and May 6 this year.

The Bangladeshi migrants, 14.7 percent of whom are female, returned from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait.

Addressing the webinar, BCSM Chair and RMMRU Executive Director Prof CR Abrar said the government needs to come forward to address migrant workers' wage theft claims.

He said, if necessary, the government can collaborate with the civil society groups in this regard.

Nurul Islam, former director of Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training, said the issue of migrant workers' wage theft claims should be addressed at different platforms such as the Colombo Process or Abu Dhabi Dialogue.

He said the claims can be placed before the host countries through a "commission" or UN organisations working in those countries such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, former secretary general of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies, said the wage theft claims can be shared with the foreign missions concerned in Bangladesh.

Migration expert Asif Munier said there is a need for continuing the campaign against wage theft while collaboration with regional platforms such as MFA can be essential in this regard.

Syed Saiful Hoque, chairperson of Warbe Development Foundation, said due to wage theft, at one end migrant workers have lost their earnings while the government lost valuable foreign currencies.