The government has drafted a law to make the Wage Earners’ Welfare Board a statutory organisation to extend welfare services to migrant workers and their family members, said senior officials.
The draft Wage Earners’ Welfare Board law-2016 has been submitted to the expatriates welfare and overseas employment ministry for taking necessary action to present it before the cabinet as soon as possible, they said.
With the enactment of the law, the Wage Earners Welfare Fund which was operated by government notification issued in 2002 would be defunct and it would be replaced by the Wage Earners’ Welfare Board.
The board would be governed by the board of directors to be appointed by the government with EWOE ministry secretary in the chair, board director general as member secretary and other directors from different ministries and stakeholders concerned.
The welfare fund, run by the wage earners’ welfare board had been created with contributions deducted from the migrant workers at different stages.
According to the draft law, the activities of the welfare board would include setting up welfare desks at airports to help migrant workers, implementing projects to ensure welfare of the migrant workers and their family members, protecting properties of the board, providing scholarships to the children of migrants, legal assistances to the migrants, financing for projects to set up migrants’ information centers, hospitals and educational institutions.
For the female migrant workers facing various problems including abuses, accidents and illness, the welfare board’s responsibility will be to take necessary steps to repatriate, rehabilitate, ensure treatment, realize compensations and provide legal aids for them.
WEWB director general Gazi Mohammad Julhas told New Age that the welfare board which was being operated on the basis of rules of the wage earners welfare fund issued by EWOE ministry in 2002 would be replaced by the proposed law to create a strong foundation with formulation of the act.
‘It is at the final stage of submitting the draft act before the cabinet,’ he said.
After getting approval from the cabinet, the draft law will be sent to the parliamentary standing committee for presenting it as a bill in the national parliament, he said.
Officials said that the government had created the Wage Earners’ Welfare Fund in 1990 with immigration service fees paid by the outgoing migrant workers.
Wage Earners’ Welfare Board Act-2016 would be formulated in line with the migration policy and employment act.
International Labour Organisation has been providing technical support in formulating new laws for the board, they said.
Wage Earners’ Welfare Board would provide pre-departure briefing to outgoing migrants on rules, languages, customs and weather of the host countries.
The board would also take decisions to bury or bring back dead bodies of the expatriates, provide financial assistance to sick migrants, and give legal support to migrants’ families at home and abroad.
Migrant rights campaigners said that as the WEWB had been formed with contributions of the migrant workers, its activities should be dedicated to ensure welfare of the migrant workers.
They said that about one crore Bangladeshi migrants have been employed in 162 countries and they remit annually more than US$ 15 billion to the country.
When asked, Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Programme chairman Shakirul Islam told New Age that many migrant workers have become undocumented in foreign countries after going there with jobs.
The welfare board act should cover the welfare activities for those undocumented workers, he said.
Besides, the law should be finalised in consultation with the stakeholders concerned, he suggested.
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