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Monday, May 28, 2018 11:22:01 PM
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Home they return but abused and empty handed

photo by NN Photo

Forty more female workers returned home from Saudi Arabia on Sunday night being abused and tortured by their employers.

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Anisul Islam Noor :
Forty female workers, mainly housemaids returned home from Saudi Arabia on Sunday leaving behind a terrible experience of sexual abuse, physical torture and payment irregularities of wages. They returned empty handed. 
They landed at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) in the evening and were at a loss how to go home and show face to family members, relatives and neighbours. This batch of female workers returned after more than 100 returned home from Saudi Arabia two weeks ago in two batches with similar tales of torture and abuse by their employers who reportedly treated the women as sex slaves in many cases.
Many questions why the government is sending such unskilled female workers to the Gulf countries and particularly to Saudi Arabia ignoring call from civil society leaders   and human rights organizations to ban sending such women where they lack due protection.
At a time other suppliers of housemaids such as Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Philippines have stopped sending their female workers on safety ground, why Bangladesh government is still sending women workers is not fairly understood at a time when the question of national dignity is at stake.
A BRAC functionary received the returnees at the Airport to raise question also as to why the concerned government officials of the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare are not showing up at the Airport and arranging their reception and transportation to their families. 
"Forty women have arrived in Dhaka safely and five others are scheduled to return home tomorrow," said Al Amin, spokesman of BRAC's Migration Program.
Almost all of the returnees claimed they had left Saudi Arabia after suffering physical abuse and inhumane torture at the hands of their employers in addition to payment-related irregularities in most cases. Many of these women had escaped from employers' houses without passport and returned home with support from the Bangladesh Embassy in Saudi Arabia. Bangladesh Embassy is maintaining two safe homes in Saudi Arabia and shelter and sends back home those who seek protection.
Priti Begum of Manikganj, who went to Saudi Arabia with a local broker's assistance, said she worked at the home of a wealthy Saudi man who abused her and used to beat her even over minor reasons.
"The workload in that house was huge and I had to take care of at least 16 people. I could not even get enough sleep. They did not care even if I was sick. There were no medical facilities for workers like me," she told journalists at the airport.
"My employer and his family members used to beat me so severely that I had lost consciousness several times during my stay in that house. One day, I escaped from that house and sought help from local police. They sent me to the Bangladesh Embassy and now I am here," said Priti as tears rolls her eyes.  
Another worker named Sakina Begum from Brahmanbaria said she worked there for two months and has returned to Bangladesh without receiving any payment.
"I am a poor woman. I went to Saudi Arabia against my husband's wishes, to earn money and for a better life. But now, I have returned humiliated and empty-handed and I do not know how to show my face to my family," she said.
BRAC's Al Amin said most of these women experienced similar tortures at the hands of their employers.'
Many of them returned empty-handed and were so broke that they were even unable to go home to their families, he added, urging the government to consider these cases seriously and take legal actions against their employers.
Last week, Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry's Secretary Dr Namita Halder had said: "Most of the Bangladeshi women workers in Saudi Arabia are working happily and those returning home were coming back after failing to cope up with the local environment and culture."
However, Sunday's 40 followed a number of women workers who have recently returned to Bangladesh from Saudi Arabia in a similar manner and shared with the media their tales of woe under the employment of locals in Saudi Arabia.

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