Our workers in Maldives deserve better
The sufferings of Bangladeshi migrant workers abroad are nothing new, and a recent study by the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) has revealed a picture of hardship for those in the Maldives. Of the 120 current and 250 returnee migrants surveyed by RMMRU, 36 percent reported not being paid for overtime work. Documented workers earn an average monthly income of Tk 37,066 while undocumented ones earn Tk 25,650 – which might come as a surprise to those with a rosy vision of overseas earnings.
On top of this, workers faced discrimination and abuse in multiple forms. For instance, around 38 percent of respondents said their employers had taken away their passports, while about half of both undocumented and documented workers faced workplace discrimination. Perhaps the most dehumanising treatment that they reported is physical or verbal abuse, which at least 18 percent of respondents suffered at one point.
Unfortunately, Maldives is not an exception – the plight of low-skilled Bangladeshi workers is quite similar in other destination countries, including Middle East, too. Wage theft, withholding of passports, discrimination, abuse of various kinds, and even threats of deaths are vulnerabilities that workers must contend with on a regular basis. Such injustices taking place in other countries may pose a challenge for us to address them. However, the onus is still on the government to ensure that our workers abroad are not abused or exploited. These people often have to pay a hefty sum to intermediaries (who make up an insidiously corrupt system) to get jobs there. Once there, they often work for inhumane hours for a relatively small amount, and then send whatever they can save back home. Through this hard and uncompromising process, they give a boost to our economy.
It is, therefore, crucial that the government takes better care of our migrant workers, including those in the Maldives. It must ensure regular collaboration with the authorities of destination countries to ensure full compliance of labour rights, so that our workers can be protected from abuse and exploitation.