Jobless Bangladeshis face uncertainty in S Arabia

Majority went to oil-rich Arab nation on ‘free’ visas

| Updated: October 18, 2017 04:42:15

Representational image (Photo- Collected) Representational image (Photo- Collected)

Many Bangladeshi workers who have gone to Saudi Arabia with individual visas or so-called free visas are now facing uncertainty as they fail to find jobs, sources said.


Many of them have already communicated with the Bangladesh embassy in Riyadh and urged the officials concerned to resolve their job crisis, they added.


Nearly 90 per cent of the workers went to the oil-rich country with individual visas, said officials at the expatriates' welfare ministry.


A record 341,294 Bangladeshi workers went to the Arab country in the first seven months of the current calendar year which is more than 57 per cent of the total migration during the period, Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET) data showed.


Saudi Arabia recruited highest 204,112 workers in 2007.


Migration experts fear that such a migration trend would put a further negative impact on Bangladesh's job market in Saudi Arabia. They also said the government should ensure valid jobs before sending the workers to the job destination country.


After a seven-year ban, the gulf-country reopened its job market in August 2016. It put restrictions on recruitment of Bangladeshi workers in 2008.


Sector insiders involved with the process said the outflow of Bangladeshi workers to the Arab country is higher than that of job demands.


Following a decline in oil prices in recent years, job market is shrinking in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Some companies have already closed down. At present, there is no mega project in that country which is also facing political uncertainty, they mentioned.


Talking to the FE, Sarwar Alam, labour counsellor at the Bangladesh embassy in Riyadh, said the workers who are coming with individual visas are facing uncertainty.


"So, overseas jobseekers should not enter the country without company visas at this moment. As the economy of Saudi Arabia is now slow, workers are not getting jobs as like as earlier," he added.


Some officials who recently visited Saudi Arabia said many of the workers were trying their best to find jobs. A good number of them also came to the Bangladesh embassy to make complaints against manpower recruiters.


Preferring anonymity, an official said a section of BMET officials were also involved in such malpractices. Without assessing job demands, they are giving clearance to maintain good relations with manpower recruiters, he added.


Workers are going there at high migration cost where each worker spends from Tk 400,000 to Tk 800,000. "So, they will have to face serious problem if they have to return home," he observed.


When contacted, Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, joint secretary general of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA), said usually a section of Bangladeshi migrants are involved with visa trading.


Earlier, employers were not entitled to get visas without assessing needs for the workers. Currently, the Saudi government has introduced quota system where each employer will get visa to recruit worker whether they have need or not.


A section of Saudi employers are also taking advantage of selling visas to Bangladeshi migrants, he said.


"The Bangladesh authority should formally request the Saudi government to take measures against such wrongdoings," said Mr Noman, adding that if necessary, they should make a list of unemployed workers and request for ensuring their jobs.


Ali Haider Chowdhury, former senior vice president of BAIRA, said there are no mega projects where the workers can be employed. So, the government has to be careful to approve their job demands.


Tasneem Siddiqui, founding chair at Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), said a 'vicious cycle' has long been working on the process of migration to Saudi Arabia.


Earlier, workers somehow could manage jobs. But now it is tough for them due to economic slowdown in this Arab country, she said.


When asked, Ms Siddiqui said although the migration cost has come down, it is still much higher. If the workers are forced to come back home, they will face a major setback.


Currently, about 1.5 million Bangladeshis are working in Saudi Arabia in different trades. Bangladesh received the highest amount of remittances totalling US$ 25.82 million from Saudi Arabia in 2016.


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