Ensure their easy access to health care in the Gulf
Migration experts and public health campaigners yesterday said Bangladesh needs to address migrant workers' health issues effectively, calling for inclusion of health-related clauses in bilateral agreements with host countries.
Although migrant workers contribute significantly to the development of host countries and Bangladesh's progress by sending remittances, their health issues are often overlooked, they said at a report sharing event.
Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) organised the event at the capital's Jatiya Press Club, where the findings of the report "The Cost of Living: Migrant Workers' Access to Health in the Gulf" was discussed.
Published last month, the report is produced by Vital Signs Partnership, a group of organisations in South Asia and Southeast Asia working together to campaign for better protection for low-paid migrant workers in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.
As a member of the group, RMMRU conducted a survey in Bangladesh for the report.
Majority of Bangladesh's more than one crore migrant workers are employed in low-skilled jobs in six GCC countries.
The report says easy access to healthcare is particularly critical for low-paid migrant workers in the Gulf due to the multiple adverse health conditions that can result from their work.
GCC states' healthcare services aren't tailored to the specific needs of migrant workers, and there is obvious evidence of discrimination in access to healthcare for migrant workers, with lack of documentation and affordability the most significant obstacles.
It also says inability of low-paid migrant workers to easily access non-emergency healthcare services has a detrimental effect on their general physical and mental health. This may be contributing to both the number of preventable deaths and the high rate of "unexplained deaths".
Addressing the ceremony, RMMRU Executive Director Prof CR Abrar said health issues of low-paid migrant workers in the Gulf are utterly ignored.
Although source countries have their role to play, so far little has been done from their end to address this issue, he said.
Female and undocumented migrant workers are more vulnerable to access to healthcare services, he added.
Prof Rashid-e-Mahbub, former president of Bangladeshi Medical Association, said whether employers are ensuring migrant workers' access to health services need to be looked at.
Sumaiya Islam, executive director of Bangladesh Nari Sramik Kendra, said female migrant workers have to endure long working hours. As a result, they face multiple health complexes after returning home.
Syed Saiful Haque, chairman of WARBE Development Foundation; rights activist Nur Khan; and Faizul Hakim Lala, general secretary of Janasasthya Sangram Parishad, also spoke at the programme.