The Financial Express
Swasti Lankabangla Swasti Lankabangla

Protecting female migrant workers  

Protecting female migrant workers   

Many Bangladeshi women mostly from rural background go abroad as migrant workers, but they often return home traumatised and empty-handed. Recent reports of migrant women workers sent mainly to Gulf States as domestic helps using faked age certificates by some fraudulent recruiting agents have returned to the country devastated physically and mentally. Some of these extreme victims of abuse were actually teenage girls, but they were shown as women of 25, the legal lower age limit for sending abroad as migrant labourers, by forging their age-related papers. And those over 40, the legal upper age-limit for female migrant workers, had their bio-data faked in a similar fashion by the dishonest recruiting agents before sending them abroad.

Despite causing a lot of public outrage following the death of a female domestic help in the KSA after maltreatment and cheating at the hands of her employer, reports of similar atrocities have not stopped coming. But the recruiting agencies that contact such unreliable job sponsors and arrange visas by adopting unfair means are yet to be brought to justice. Some 294 female migrant workers reportedly died in their host Gulf States between 2016 and 2019, in many cases, under shady circumstances.  The authorities in collaboration with the host governments should arrange investigations to ferret out the truth behind each death. If found responsible, the recruiting agent behind any such victim's travel to the host country in question should be brought to book without delay. There is a dearth of appropriate arrangements, protocols or law at the bilateral, multilateral or international levels to deal with the cases of gross human-rights violation committed against female migrant workers in their host countries. Such legal lacunae are largely to blame for the unredeemed wrongs done to those helpless victims of cruelty and injustice in foreign lands.

However, at home the authorities should put their foot down, hold the recalcitrant local recruiting agencies to account for their defrauding and set instances of exemplary justice. The host countries need also to mount guard to ensure fair treatment to wage earning workers. The recent case of a teenage girl returning from Jordan after surviving barbaric treatment from different employers as well as serving in prison should prompt the authorities to act fast. The manpower agents thus putting hundreds of our female migrant workers in harm's way are basically human traffickers in recruiters' garb. But the way victims' papers including passports, national ID cards, pre-departure training certificates and emigration clearance papers are obtained points to an unholy nexus between these so-called recruiting agents and a dishonest section in the administration. Those involved, both at the government and non-government levels, at different stages of a prospective migrant woman workers' training, or paper processing must take responsibility. That would amply help the process of justice in case misfortune befalls migrant women.

The recent arrest by law-enforcers of the manpower agent and his assistant allegedly behind the sad death of a female migrant worker or similar other victims is without doubt a commendable step. It is hoped that the action will not stop with the arrest but continue until the entire evil nexus is busted. What is more important than taking action after the tragedies have taken place is to plug the systemic loopholes through which the offenders often get away with their misdeeds. Since some 100,000 female migrant workers are working mostly in the Middle East and sending precious foreign exchanges home, ensuring their safety and security abroad should be a priority issue before the government.

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