Around 500 Bangladeshi domestic workers, most of whom fled work due to abuse and torture by employers await deportation from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
They have either been put up at Saudi detention centres following arrests or have taken shelter at safe homes run by Bangladesh embassy, their colleagues told New Age on return from the KSA after going through similar experiences.
On return they said that they saw several hundred female workers in tears at a deportation centre in Riyadh.
On return from the KSA Monday night, at least 81 female workers of Bangladesh narrated their plight including physical and mental torture by Saudi employers or their agents.
They urged the government to immediately rescue and repatriate these hapless workers from the KSA.
Of the returnees three seriously sick and traumatized female workers were admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital, said officials of Brace migration programme and the Wage Earners’ Welfare Board.
On return, Piara Begum of Moulavibazar told New Age that she paid Tk one lakh to a broker to get a job in a Saudi company but on arrival in Riyadh she was shocked to find that she would be required to work as housemaid.
After she ran away from the employer’s home, she was arrested and sent to jail in Riyadh for five months before deporting her on January 20.
She said that at the Bangladesh embassy, where she was sent for collecting her out part, she found 400 female workers at the safe home run by the embassy and saw over 200 others at the Saudi deportation centre.
Returnee Lipi Ahter of Brahmanbari narrated a similar story.
She said that she spent seven months in a Riyadh jail after arrest for running away from employer’s home.
She said that she worked as a domestic help at a Saudi home for three months and that regular beating by employer made her sick.
She said that the employer returned her to the Saudi recruiting agency which provided her for his home.
‘I survived on inadequate food at the office of the recruiting agency which gave me drinking water from bathroom,’ she said.
Lipi said that she saw 500 female workers at the Bangladesh embassy’s safe home and over 150 other at a deportation centre in Riyadh.
She appealed to the government of Bangladesh to immediately rescue and repatriate fellow female workers from the KSA.
Lipi appealed to the government to stop sending female workers to the KSA.
A senior Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry official admitted that many female workers were returning from the KSA as victims of torture and abuse.
Bangladesh missions’ labour officials in Riyadh and Jeddah were trying their best to help ‘our female migrants in distress, he said.
Bangladeshi trade unionist and founder of the AWAJ Foundation Nazma Akter told New Age that female domestic workers should not be sent abroad.
The government should explore alternative markets and jobs for the country’s female workers, she said.
According to officials of the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training, around 2.8 lakh Bangladeshi females took jobs as domestic workers in the KSA since 1991.
Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Programme chairman Shakirul Islam told New Age that Bangladesh government to take up the issue with Saudi authorities.
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