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20th-May-2015

Sending housemaids to Middle East is slave trade, must be stopped

By Editorial Desk

We want to make it clear that the very concept of state-run manpower business is abhorrent in a free country. Our priority should be family planning for containing population and job creation for the unemployed. We must create skilled workers for jobs abroad to avoid migrant workers being treated as slaves. But we have to remain conscious that using citizens as business commodities for export is no credit for any government. The miseries of migrants from Bangladesh drifting at sea starving and dying is heartbreaking.    
The Saudi Ministry of Labour started issuing visas for Bangladeshi domestic workers from April 20. The Ministry's decision came after completion of all procedures and terms and conditions for the recruitment on the basis of the labour pact signed by the two countries earlier. The government will be right and open if such terms and conditions are published. As far as we know such terms and conditions are one-sided and not much of a help to uneducated workers.
Some 500,000 Bangladeshi domestic workers are ready to go to the Kingdom. There are 1,000 recruitment offices in Bangladesh, 100 of which are devoted to the recruitment of women. Ghulam Masseh, the Bangladesh Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said, the first batch of domestic help is expected to arrive in the Kingdom within one month.
The Ministry of Labour started receiving applications to issue visas for Bangladeshi domestic workers from April 20. According to the Ministry, Saudis who want to hire housemaids can choose any of the 337 licensed recruitment firms, which will facilitate the hiring process with their counterparts in Bangladesh. The costs, visa validity and other details are available on the Ministry's Musaned electronic portal.
Our government has to accept that there is no honour in exporting our simple-minded women as housemaids to Middle Eastern countries knowingly to be abused. These are tightly controlled countries where people from poor countries are generally treated with neglect. The helpless ones cannot even give up the job to return.  
Many countries have refused to send women workers to these countries for their past bitter experience. Our government appears to be too eager to earn foreign exchange without caring the cost in terms of human suffering and image of the country.  We have many avenues for women to be employed in Bangladesh if the matter is taken up seriously. Our garment sector is expanding. There is shortage of housemaids in our own country. The lure of jobs abroad is often a nightmare.  
When it comes to sending maids to Middle Eastern countries, we have serious objection. Most of this Middle Eastern countries have failed to protect female migrant domestic workers from beatings, hunger, overwork, underpayment and forced abuse. The present system leaves our female migrant workers open to the most horrific abuses. The passports of these workers are seized. They are kept out of touch with others. The laws are too harsh there.
Bangladesh has to focus on creating job opportunities with preference for women.
In 2013, for example, 4,50,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers (97 percent men) found employment abroad. The remittance sent by migrant workers through legal channels alone also touched the peak in 2013, amounting to over US$ 14 billion. While international labour migration presents benefits of reduced unemployment at home, poverty alleviation and better standards of living and security for migrant workers and their families through higher wages and remittance, and sharing of skills and technology, majority of migrant workers in Bangladesh do not enjoy the full benefits.
What is very interesting, however, is that the share of revenues from OECD countries like the USA is climbing at a faster rate than the Middle East states where most of our workers have traditionally gone to.
Because the government itself is doing manpower business, so the smugglers also have easy access to victims. The victims are led to believe in availability of opportunities. It is reported in the press that influential persons in high position also earn a share from this slave trade. How inhuman this trade could be is nobody's consideration.