Every month, on an average at least 200 domestic workers of Bangladesh return home from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as victims of sexual abuse.
New Age learnt from Bangladesh officials and rights activists that before returning home, all the victims complained to Bangladesh missions in Riyadh and Jeddah that they were sexually abused and tortured physically and mentally by their employers.
They also complained that employers also forced them to overwork and denied them enough food and rest.
Another common complaint was that their wages were in arrears for up to 10 months when they decided to leave for home unable to bear the tormented life in the KSA.
The victims also complained that their employers had the habit of boasting that they ‘bought us from Bangladesh and, therefore, they could do anything they just felt pleased with.’
Bangladesh Embassy’s labour counselor Md Sarwar Alam, however, told New Age, ‘our domestic workers leaving for the KSA outnumbers those who go back to Bangladesh.’
He said that, on an average, he himself issues up to 150 ‘out-passes’ to Bangladeshi domestic workers at Riyadh so that they could return to Bangladesh.
He said that being annoyed over the attitudes of ‘our domestic workers’ Saudi authorities had threatened to stop the recruitment of housemaids from Bangladesh.
Though many Bangladeshi housemaids came back with exit passes issued by Bangladesh labour counselor in Jeddah, none could give their number.
On return home on Sunday night 21victims of abuse narrated to New Age the terrible tortures they had suffered in the hands of their Saudi employers.
They also complained of sexual abuse by employers.
They were flown to Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport by Air Arabia.
On the previous night, 82 housemaids returned empty handed from the KSA on an Air Arabia flight and 12 of them were brought back by the Wage Earners’ Welfare Board following an application from the BRAC migration programme.
Mili Akhter,27, of Moulvi Bazaar had gone to Riyadh five months ago and on the very first day she became victim of sexual abuse by her employer.
One day she fled from her employers house and took shelter at the safe home run by the Bangladesh embassy after her arm was burnt by a hot iron for refusing the employer’s overtures.
Taslima, 26, of Comilla narrated a similar experience during her seven month’s stay in the KSA.
BRAC’s migration department chief Shariful Islam Hasan told New Age that they frequently received complaints of sexual abuses and other problems from the female migrants and their family members.
‘So far, we have received over 600 complaints of female migrants who were sexually abused and faced other problems in the KSA in last four months,’ he said.
Sharif said that Bangladesh embassy should take legal action against the accused employers to bring these repressive activities to an end.
Bangladeshi Ovhibashi Mohila Sramik Association chairman Lily Jahan told New Age that they received at least 20 complaints from the female workers every month.
‘They mainly complained about abuses, over work, denial of wages and food problem,’ she said.
Lily Jahan, a returnee migrant turned activist, asked the authorities to stop sending house maids on ‘relative visas’ as they suffer more sexual and physical abuses.
She also demanded strict monitoring by the Bangladesh government to protect ‘our female workers’ rights’ when they work in foreign countries.
Bangladesh mission officials in Riyadh and Jeddah told New Age that over 350 female migrant workers had taken shelter at ‘our safe homes’ after facing abuse, torture and job-related issues.
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