IT IS unfortunate that the government is yet to work out a plan to regulate agencies that recruit workers from remote rural areas for overseas jobs. A cartel of 14 agencies chosen by the government for sending workers to Singapore has been blamed for charging additional money, increasing the migration costs. Victims and officials, as New Age reported on Tuesday, said that the syndicate forced each worker to pay at least Tk 8 lakh to migrate to Singapore although the expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment ministry set Tk 2.6 lakh as the maximum cost. Migrant rights activists said that these agencies used middlemen to cheat workers. On return home from Singapore in December 2017, a worker told New Age that he had to pay Tk 5.5 lakh to a broker for going to Singapore in 2011. Migrant rights campaigners demanded bringing these middlemen under regulation to stop the swindling of unsuspecting workers using false promises.
For most of the expatriate workers who come from a comparatively poorer background, mostly from rural areas, the migration cost is too high, even, sometimes, beyond their means. But job-seekers continue to be cheated by the so-called human resources business organisations and their associates, who charge them more than the migration cost set by the ministry year after year. All that we mean to say is that they are still vulnerable to swindling by recruiting agencies and middlemen across the board and many of them have ended up as paupers, after losing everything in their efforts to get an overseas job. Most of these people strive hard to scrape together the amount required to meet the expense of migration, more often than not, selling their property, even homesteads. Although fault may lie with recruiting agencies/companies in the countries overseas, but that should not deter us from putting our house in order. So, it is time the government did something to protect the job seekers’ interests by prosecuting not only the errant recruiting agencies but also punishing aberrant intermediaries. The authorities must keep in mind that remittances from migrant workers, along with export earnings by the apparel sector, remain the mainstay of the economy. Hence, the incumbents need to ensure that these workers are not exposed to fraud by recruitment agencies or their middlemen.
At this juncture, one can only hope that the authorities will jolt themselves out of their apparent indifference, discuss the issue of regulating these recruiting agencies and their intermediaries, and act expeditiously to put in place measures to develop an appropriate mechanism to catch hold of, and prosecute, them in a befitting manner. But before that, it will entail a well-defined process to bring the middlemen and intermediaries under a legal framework with a view to keeping them under check.
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