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Baira needs to fall in line

  • Published at 07:24 am May 20th, 2013
Baira needs to fall in line

The Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies’, or Baira’s, flat-out refusal to accept the proposed Overseas Employment and Migrant Workers’ Act, which aims to stratify the manpower business and protect migrant workers against irregular and unethical practices, is suspiciously obstructive.

Migrant workers bolster the Bangladeshi economy in a considerable way. Their remittances account for an enormous chunk of our export earnings, yet they often fall prey to unsavoury operators who sell them down the river, landing them up in jails overseas, or worse, working under duress for tyrannical employers.

Admittedly, this illegal trade in human misery has many culprits. There are operatives abroad who collude with their counterparts here to scam workers, and this is a matter that should be taken up at a diplomatic level. However, Baira’s gripe with the proposed law isn’t about that; it’s about the fact that government officials are themselves part of the problem.

Indeed, officials at the expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment ministry concede that the Bangladesh immigration department has been involved in visa forgery in the past.

Baira is concerned the act, which seeks to sort manpower businesses according to their compliance with laws and ethical standards, as well as by their ability to exploit new markets and provide workers with good working conditions, could be compromised by the corruptible officials who will make these lists.

They argue that categorisation may happen under the influence of bribes, rather than on merit.

Instead, they have suggested an all carrot and no stick proposal where companies performing well are given a pat on the back by being designated commercially important persons (CIP). In other words, they have the audacity to ask for incentives to do what they are legally required to do in the first place.

Baira’s concerns about corruption are not unfounded, and this is something that certainly requires vigilance and oversight. However, dismissing the proposed law or expecting to be rewarded for not dealing unethically is completely out of the question. They have to accept that there is need for a greater regulation of their sector.

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