THE government’s move to bring middlemen under a legal framework to reduce the cost of migration and stop harassment of prospective migrant workers is welcome. The Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies, however, opposed the move saying that when the government has failed to monitor about 1,400 registered recruiting agencies, how it would control thousands of middlemen. The expatriates welfare and overseas employment minister at a consultation programme organised by the International Labour Organisation on Wednesday admitted that middlemen increase the cost of migration. A World Bank study says that Bangladeshi workers bear the world’s highest migration cost. The victimised migrant workers and rights campaigners have, therefore, demanded bringing the middlemen under a regulation to prevent the swindling of unsuspecting workers with false promises. Migration experts say that to reduce fraudulent practices, recruiting agencies should get their middlemen registered so that the government could hold the recruiting agencies to account for any unethical practice.
For most expatriate workers who come from a comparatively poorer background, the migration cost is too high, even sometimes beyond their means. Many job-seekers continue to be cheated by some recruiting agencies and their middlemen year after year. They are still vulnerable to swindling by the agencies and middlemen and many of them have ended up as paupers, after losing everything in their bid to get a job abroad. So, it is time the government did something to protect the job seekers’ interest by prosecuting not only errant recruiting agencies but also punishing aberrant middlemen. To fulfil this objective, the government needs to bring all middlemen under a legal framework by amending the Overseas Employment and Migrants Act 2013. Through the recognition of middlemen thus by law, ethical and fair recruitment could be ensured and fraudulence could be contained. The authorities should remember that remittances from migrant workers remain one of the mainstays of the economy and as such greater responsibility devolves on them to make sure that the workers are not exposed to fraudulent practices by recruitment agencies or their middlemen.
The authorities must, therefore, take immediate steps to discuss the issue of regulating the middlemen of all recruiting agencies in right earnest and act expeditiously to put in place measures to develop an appropriate mechanism to prosecute and punish aberrant middlemen. But before that, it must entail a well-defined process to bring middlemen under a legal framework with a view to keeping them under check.
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