Recruiting agencies force workers seeking foreign jobs to pay exorbitant fees as the authorities take no interest to rationalize their cost of migration.
Recruiting agencies blamed high cost of job visas for the situation.
Migrant rights campaigners blamed visa trading by middlemen in the sending as well as destination countries for the soaring migration costs.
They said collection of the illegal fees by the Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry, the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training and the police further increase the migration cost for the poor workers.
Since ILO conventions as well as laws in many countries, both of origin and destination, require the employers to bear the entire cost of migration, the rights campaigners called it completely illogical to force the poor workers to pay for their migration.
In 2015, International Labour Organization launched its ‘Fair Recruitment Initiative,’ better known as ILO-FAIR, to reduce the cost of labour migration and enhance development gains.
The ILO’s Private Employment Agencies Convention (No. 181) says that migrants should not have to cover any costs linked to migration.
Some workers of Bangladesh had to pay 50 times the monthly wage they were paid in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and 25 times the wage they got in Malaysia.
Rights campaigners said high migration cost keep Bangladeshi workers under severe mental stress which even cause their premature deaths in destination countries.
An initiative taken by the EWOE Ministry to fix country specific uniform migration cost three years ago produced no results until now.
In the absence of uniform or standard rates, recruiting agencies continue to compel poor workers to pay at varying rates for migration to the same country, said the rights campaigners.
BMET director general Md Salim Reza told New Age the government’s efforts were on to rationally revise migration cost region wise.
He said it might not be wise to fix the cost of migration as it depends on demand and supply of workers in any given country.
But he said, ‘We would take punitive action in any worker complains that recruiting agencies charged them exorbitantly.
WARBE development foundation secretary general Faruque Ahmed told New Age that the government totally failed to keep workers’ migration cost under check.
Faruque, who once worked in the KSA, said that the migrant workers were being cheated by the recruiting agencies as the government looked the other way
Faruque said no worker enlisted with the government’s database of overseas job seekers were hired by foreign countries because BMET officials themselves deactivated the database.
Recruiters charge between Tk eight lakh and 10 lakh for sending a male worker to the KSA.
A male worker has to pay up to Tk three to four lakh to get a job in Qatar.
A recruiter charges between Tk three to 3.5 lakh for sending a worker to Iraq and between Tk seven and eight lakh for sending a worker to Singapore.
Even housemaids have to pay their migration costs though employers bear the cost, said officials.
According to a World Bank report released in 2015 Bangladeshi migrant workers bear the highest migration cost in the world.
Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit founding chairperson Tasneem Siddiqui asked the government to keep recruiting agencies off the process of visa clearance from BMET for individual job visas which account for 80 per cent of migration from Bangladesh to bring down the cost of migration.
She said that the BMET should give clearance to workers in they approached individually to keep the recruiting agencies away.
Tasneem, who teaches political science at Dhaka University, asked the government to take up the issue of visa trading with destination countries and also raise it at the multinational forums.
Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program chairman Shakirul Islam demanded slashing the migration cost to ‘zero’.
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