Saturday, 1 April, 2023

Misery of Migrant Workers

Mir Mahmudul Haque Chowdhury

Misery of Migrant Workers
Mir Mahmudul Haque Chowdhury

Migrant workers are those people who leave Bangladesh to several destinations for searching job with the intension of changing their fate and hope for better life ahead. Every year more than 400,000 workers leave Bangladesh for overseas employment. The contribution of migrant workers for the development of socio-economic condition of Bangladesh is enormous. The economic pillar of our country becomes stronger and stronger with the passing of time because of the help of hard working migrants and their valuable income.

Manpower export from the country to foreign lands started in the year 1976. Now, approximately 11.46 million Bangladeshi workers are working in 155 countries of the world. Most of the workers migrated to Middle East and such countries as Malaysia and Singapore. Saudi Arabia is the largest destination of Bangladeshi migrant workers. It alone receives 29 per cent of our total migrant workers. In addition to male workers, female workers also migrate to different countries and are increasing in number day by day. In 2017, female workers constituted around 12 per cent of total migrant workers.

A report states that a migrant worker has to spend Tk 500,000/- to Tk 1,200,000/- to go to Saudi Arabia with a job whereas the government has fixed the charge only at Tk 165,000/- for completion of the entire migration process. Similarly, to migrate to Singapore, Malaysia and some Middle East countries a worker has to spend up to Tk. 800,000/- from minimum Tk. 250,000/-. The reason of this high cost is corruption at every stage of the process and involvement of fraudulent agencies. In most of the cases, the workers left Bangladesh for their destinations at the cost of their only property or borrowing money from neighbours or other people on hefty interest rate.

A survey report shows that only 10 per cent migrant workers leave the country through legal channels. The rest of the workers use illegal channels. In most of the cases, they do not have knowledge that their channels are illegal and harmful for them as well as for the country. As a result, the migrant workers fall victim to fraudulent agencies, leading to loss of the lifetime savings and harassment in all steps of the migration procedure. They have to face difficulties in every step of their departure.

The migrant workers also fall in a dark labyrinth after reaching destination countries. They do not know the languages of the new countries; even they do not have any idea about their culture. They have to face many more challenges like unfamiliar food habit, accommodation and new working environment. A major part of the workers do not have higher education, even many of them do not have literacy at all. They are living in far away places from their families, friends and relatives. They are deprived of the love and affection of their family members. They have to observe all festivals alone by keeping behind their families far away.

A large number of Bangladeshi migrant workers lost their lives abroad due to workplace accidents, occupational hazards and mental torture including excessive workload. At least 3,480 Bangladeshi workers died abroad in 2017; the figures were 3,375 and 3,335 in 2016 and 2015 respectively. The actual number of deceased could be higher than these figures since the illegal migrants who died abroad are not recorded in Bangladesh Missions abroad and also buried at the living place abroad. From 2005 to 2017, i.e. in the last 13 years, 33,112 Bangladeshi workers lost their lives in foreign lands.

Before going abroad, a person needs to undergo many medical tests to determine whether he or she is suffering from communicable and non-communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis-B, HCV, malaria, tuberculosis, heart diseases, diabetes, cancer, psychiatric abnormality and neurological disorders. Survey reports exhibit that the workers who were not affected by any of the diseases, become sick after going abroad since they are always under pressure to pay back loans and other liabilities they had incurred before travelling abroad. Sometimes the employers take advantage of their mental state and force them to work extra hour with little pay.

The hard earned money sent home by millions of migrant workers is one of the biggest sources of foreign exchnage for Bangladesh. Records show that the remittance sent by migrant workers were 7.14 per cent of country’s GDP in 2016-2017; which was 12.00 per cent in the year 2014-15. The average contribution of foreign remittance for the last five years in the country’s GDP was 9.00 per cent. This percentage would be higher than the existing one if all the foreign remittance enters the country through legal channels.

Bangladesh is one of the top five migrant sending countries in the world but in terms of remittance received, Bangladesh’s position is far behind than other countries. In the recent past financial year the remittance inflow to Bangladesh was USD14.98 billion. Remittance has significantly contributed to poverty reduction in Bangladesh. Export of human resources becomes a major part of foreign currency income for Bangladesh. The potentiality of this sector increases day by day with opening various labour markets of the world for Bangladesh.

For lack of awareness, these remittance earning members of our country fall victim of various irregularities and bear various types of physical and mental harassment. Often employers take advantage of the workers’ vulnerability and provide them with poor living condition, inadequate health security, and engage them in hazardous jobs. So, the government should be more technical, logical and tactful at the time of signing agreement with manpower importing country so that the rights of these remittance earning members are protected in every field.


The writer is a banker. E-mail: [email protected]