A matter of serious concern
That Bangladesh has received 16,759 bodies of overseas workers in eight years is indeed alarming. What is more worrisome is that the number of death of Bangladeshi workers abroad has shown a rising trend over the period. As mentioned in a New Age report quoting data available with the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training, 2,878 bodies of migrant workers reached home in 2012 while the number of bodies the country received in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 was 1248, 1402, 1673, 2098, 2315, 2560 and 2585. Although BMET officials sought to attribute the increase in the number of such death to an increase in the number of workers going abroad every year in the period and said that the deaths had been caused mostly by heart attacks and illness, there is hardly any reason to gloss over the issue. It is to recall here that all the workers who go to foreign countries through official channels have to undergo a thorough medical check-up before leaving home and thereby attain medical certificates that declare them fit, physically and mentally, for their assigned jobs.
The vast majority of Bangladeshis that have so far migrated to different countries for jobs are inefficient. Moreover, they have to endure lots of problems before and after joining jobs abroad. On the one hand, other than the plight inflicted on them by the recruiting agencies concerned in particular, overseas workers, predominantly poor, in general need to arrange the whole cost by either selling the small piece of land they live on or borrowing money at a very high interest. On the other hand, a large section of them are paid less than the amount mentioned in their appointment letters, if any. That apart, especially in West Asian countries majority of Bangladeshi workers have so far migrated to, while there is little or no regulation of safety, working and health conditions in many sectors, they usually have to live in subhuman conditions. Allegedly, worse, Bangladesh embassies or consulates in the countries concerned still largely remain indifferent to their woes. One need not be an expert that all these issues leave huge stress on the latter’s physical and mental health resulting, sometimes, even in their death. Meanwhile, as a study conducted a few years ago by the ICDDR,B, in collaboration with the International Organisation for Migration, revealed, 60 per cent of Bangladeshi workers abroad have experienced workplace injury, and 34 per cent of them faced physical injuries that left their usual level of activity diminished. The recent factory fire in Bahrain which left at least 11 Bangladeshis dead speaks volume of this.
Migrant workers do not only provide billions of dollars every year for the state coffers but also exempt the government from the huge burden to create job for millions of people within the country. The country can no longer afford any indifference to their woes.
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