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Bangla workers most vulnerable

On November 17, 2007

First published in Bahrain Tribune, by Titus Filio:

Bangladeshi migrant workers remain to be among the most vulnerable foreign workforce groups in Bahrain, according to human rights activists who discussed their plight at a workshop in Dhaka this week.

Low salaries, working without documents, lack of proper accommodation and no access to health facilities are among the problems facing the Bangladeshi workers.

The estimates vary but papers presented at the workshop said there could be at least 74,000 Bangladeshi workers in Bahrain which accounts for about 10 per cent of the country’s population. Of these, an estimated 4,000 are women. “A large number of Bangladeshi workers in Bahrain are classified as “undocumented” or “illegal”.

Many are on the 3-D (dirty, dangerous, demeaning) jobs,” said activist Nabeel Rajab of the dissolved Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.
Their group took part in the workshop, organised by the World Bank and the International Organisation for Migration.
Bangladesh is one of the major labour supplies. But activists said there was a lack of proper regulatory powers guiding the recruitment of Bangladeshis for jobs abroad, particularly in the GCC countries.

“They are desperate to secure employment abroad. Many Bangladeshis carry false identification documents, including passports,” the workshop’s report on Bangladeshi workers said.

“Many workers do not have work contracts, and some have created false contracts and destroyed those signed at the embassy. This can be seen as a result of desperation to get and keep jobs,” the report said.

“Many Bangladeshis have been trafficked to the country (and the region) on false promises of good jobs and higher salaries. A large number of them have sold property and other valuables and paid for their travel to the region.” Workshop participants called on the Bangladeshi government to develop a system to enforce individuals, recruitment agencies and government employees to adopt control measures to end workers’ exploitation.

Over the years the Bangladeshi has adopted new programmes to reach out to its nationals.

The embassy conducts Open Houses to address workers’ complaints apart from special programmes like providing medical and health check-ups for its nationals.

Bangladeshi free visa workers are availing amnesty and lining up to take flights home. Many have also filed applications to legalise status.

The fact that over 3,500 passports of runaway Bangladeshis have been returned to the embassy by employers only highlights the workers’ plight.