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Protecting our workers abroad

  • Published at 01:12 pm February 15th, 2017
Protecting our workers abroad

Bangladesh is in its early stages of development, with very limited employment opportunities in the competitive job market. The less-educated job-seekers who fail to find jobs at home usually seek their fortune abroad. As a result, our country has become one of the countries with the highest labour exports in the world.

The remittance sent by the labourers working aboard act as a catalyst in the economic development of our country through foreign exchange. However, the lack of proper training due to improper guidance by the pre-departure training centres and fraudulent manpower agencies create a daunting overall experience that our migrant workers face abroad.

Being the citizen of a developing country, trapped in the vicious circle of poverty, it is obvious that most of our migrant workers are less skilled, less educated, and less trained than other workers in the same category -- but in order to reduce the vulnerability of migrant workers and to enable them to maximise benefits from overseas employment, various pre-departure orientation programs are provided by the government such as mandatory pre-departure, mandatory 21-day training in house-keeping for female workers, three-day pre-departure for workers selected to migrate, and many more.

The programs impart briefings about the host country’s natural environment, nature of job, terms and conditions of the contract, language, law and regulations, food and beverages, working and living conditions, “dos and don’ts” in the destination country, migrant rights, hygiene and safety, life-skills orientation, support mechanism in the destination country, finance management, and basic banking knowledge. Certification of pre-departure briefing is needed before issuing a smart card for every outbound migrant worker.

Now the question is, how effective are these trainings?

Before receiving the smart card, all the migrant labourers are bound to attend the three-day training program in order to become aware of many factors related to the host country.

But the deported migrant workers reported that pre-departure training centres often have reckless administration and improper management, the trainers are not qualified enough -- adding that attending classes is a waste of time, and receiving the training certificate is a farce since they do not learn anything.

Initially, the migrant workers did not take such trainings as a serious matter. However, later, when they began to face difficulties aboard, they realised the importance of skill development programs.

Kamal Hossain, an aspiring migrant worker, said: “I am seeking a visa for Saudi Arabia. I attended the three-day training program from one of the pre-departure training centres in Dhaka. On the first day, I went there and only chatted with fellow applicants.

“However, to my surprise, the same routine continued for the next two days. The training centres are nothing but factories to hand out certificates to us. It is only an added hassle in a long visa process.”

In order to reduce the vulnerability of migrant workers and to enable them to maximise benefits from overseas employment, various pre-departure orientation programs are provided by the government

Many Bangladeshi male migrant workers are deported due to their incapability to do the assigned job, since they were not trained, and they arrive unaware of the nature of the job -- and many female migrant workers are deported due to their failed attempts to comprehend the foreign language.

Shahnaz Begum, who had been deported from UAE in 2012, said: “I was sent to a rich Arab family as a housemaid without any prior training.

“I was completely unaware of the nature of the job such as operating vacuum cleaners, ovens, etc. Nor did I understand the Arabic language. My agent handled all the visa procedures for me, with additional costs, thus I was not informed of any sort of trainings provided by the government to migrant workers.

“I hardly understand Arabic, and ended up making mistakes in every household task assigned to me, and due to this, my boss often beat me. After being fed up with my mistakes, my boss deported me to Bangladesh on the eighth month.”

A lack of skills and fraudulent manpower agencies severely affect our migrant labour market.

If such problems cannot be solved with appropriate solutions, we will see thousands of Shahnaz Begums and Monirul Islams deported from different developed countries, standing outside the airport with empty hands, no hope, and eyes full of tears.

Mahfuz Ahmed, a media personality, commented on the migration issue recently at the soft launch of the Together Campaign: “After witnessing the miseries of my Bangladeshi people abroad due to a lack of proper training and awareness, I did my part and made a film on it, Shopno Jatra, with all my resources and energy to make people familiar with the horrific consequence of such injustice.

“I played my role in trying to help future victims from suffering through such situations.

“If every one of us plays our own part in preventing the fate of unskilled migrants abroad by making them aware of the benefits of trainings, only then will the other side of our labour market have a safe future.”

Migrant labourers are great assets to any country. The county develops with the help of their remittance, so educating and training them is very important for the welfare of the country. Let’s save our unskilled migrant workers from a miserable fate.

Tamanna Sultana is a freelance contributor.

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