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Saudi Arabia: Bangladeshi Migrant Worker in Distress

On November 25, 2012

The following account has been recounted to Migrant Rights by a close friend of Mr. A.H.M. Zohurl Alam.

A.H.M Zohurl Alam is a qualified accountant. He studied at the Institute of Chartered Accounts of Bangladesh and is a certified Financial Consultant. Yet his story demonstrates that even skilled migrant workers, working proximate to their own countrymen and officials abroad, must contend with the unfair employment practices that run rampant in unregulated sponsorship systems.

In 2004, Alam became the chief accountant at the Bangaldesh International School in Riyadh. In 2007, Alam lost his position because of nepotistic school board members, who replaced him with someone they favored. The school board would not issue him a release letter, which prevented him from accepting other employment offers. Alam was, eventually, paid only a portion of his end of service benefit, scarcely enough for his survival and not enough to spend money home. In an article written by the Saudi Gazette, a former school board member admitted that the board acted against Saudi labor laws. (Part 1 and Part 2 available here).

The Head of Chancery informed the school that they must 'settle the case' but, five years later, Alam's grievances remain unresolved. In 2011, Alam was offered another position with the school as well as a promise for his previous three years' salary - on the condition that he not report the agreement to Saudi labor authorities. Alam claims the school board forced him to sign a document falsely affirming that his salary had been repaid. Alam worked at the school until the 20th of October 2012, at which point he claims the management secretly gave him final exit. Alam subsequently filed a case with the labor department, allowing him to temporarily remain in the country.

During the illegal termination period, Alam was given a lower-paying job with the Bangladeshi embassy. Thus, it’s very likely that at least some officials were aware of Alam’s plight, though his struggles persisted for years thereafter. Authorities can still ensure an equitable resolution to Alam’s protracted case, as his labor hearing is scheduled for the end of this month.

Migrant Rights will continue to monitor and report on the case’s developments.