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Bangladeshi woman appealing for help from KSA, returns home

  • Published at 12:48 am November 16th, 2019
The collage of screenshots taken from Sumi's video shows her crying and showing the burn marks on her arm Collected

Another 86 migrant workers return, putting the number of deportees at 1,647 in 2 weeks

Sumi Akter, a Bangladeshi migrant worker in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, whose video seeking help to escape from her employer’s abuse spread across social media, has finally returned home.

Sumi, who went to Saudi Arabia on May 30 to work as a domestic help, arrived at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka on an Air Arabia flight yesterday morning.

Officials of the Wage Earners’ Welfare Board (WEWB) received her at the airport before she was sent off to her parents’ house in Panchagarh's Boda upazila, by government transport.

Sumi’s husband Nurul Islam went to the airport to receive her but was not allowed to see her. Media was also barred from speaking to her. 

Sumi made headlines after a video of her went viral on social media. 

In the video, she said she was being tortured by her employer and had been “lured to Saudi Arabia with the promise of a good job,” and asked for help. 

Following an intervention by the Bangladesh Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi police rescued Sumi, but her employer refused to approve her “final exit” permit until he was paid back 22,000 riyals that he had paid for Sumi.

The employer finally agreed to approve Sumi’s final exit after the issue was settled in a local labour court.

WEWB Director Mohammad Jahirul Islam said the upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) and upazila parisad chairman of Boda would hand Sumi over to her parents. 

Asked why the media or even her husband was not allowed to talk to her, Jahirul said Sumi was in a delicate state and felt insecure.

"Before her arrival, we received a letter that said she was feeling insecure. I do not exactly know why. When I spoke to her, she was struggling to speak and seemed very sick. So we sent her off to her parents’ house,” he added.

As the number of allegations of Bangladeshi female workers suffering physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their employers in Saudi Arabia continues to rise, several opposition lawmakers on November 12 demanded in parliament that the government stop sending the country’s women to work in the Middle Eastern country.

The Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment, earlier in September, found that 35% of the returning female workers among a group of 111, were victims of sexual and physical abuse, while 43% received wages irregularly.

The report identified 11 fundamental reasons why Bangladeshi migrant women fled their workplace, which include physical and sexual abuse, inadequate food, no leave, and irregular salaries.

Another 86 return

Other than Sumi, on a separate Saudi Airlines flight, 86 more Bangladeshis returned home from Saudi Arabia yesterday, putting the number of deportees at 1,647 in the last two weeks, UNB reports.

Liton, who went to Saudi Arabia just 45 days ago, said he had been deported despite having a valid visa. Dulal Hossain from Brahmanbaria said Saudi police picked him up when he was going to the market and deported him. 

“I went there six months ago spending Tk4.5 lakh,” he added.

Some of the deportees alleged that the employers (Kofils) did not provide residence permits (Akamas) even after the workers paid the necessary amount. 

When police detain a worker, the employer does not take any responsibility and instructs the police to deport them, the returnees said.

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