Saudi Arabia, Malaysia crackdown

Thousands of Bangladeshi workers fear deportation

Md Owasim Uddin Bhuyan | Published: 00:04, Sep 17,2019


Thousands of undocumented Bangladeshi workers fear deportation from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Malaysia amid their on-going crackdown on illegal migrants.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia deported at least 175 Bangladeshi workers.

And at least 1,000 Bangladeshis have been taken to a deportation centre in Riyadh, returnees told New Age Monday.

Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmad arrived in Riyadh on Monday on a five-day visit to discuss manpower issues with Saudi authorities, said officials.

On Sunday night, 175 workers of Bangladesh arrived at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on a Saudi Airline flight, said officials in Dhaka.

The Malaysian immigration department continued to detain the undocumented expatriate workers though an amnesty is still in place.

Bangladeshi workers and migration researchers in Malaysia told New Age that over two lakh undocumented workers of Bangladesh were worried over Malaysian immigration police’s crackdown.

On August 1, a five-month amnesty kicked off in Malaysia to let undocumented expatriates leave the country permanently without legal hassles.

Malaysia’s ‘Back 4 Good’ amnesty ends on December 31.

When asked, Bangladesh Labour Councillor in Kuala Lumpur Zahirul Islam told New Age that Malaysia regularly cracks down on illegal expatriates.

‘The crackdown has nothing to do with the amnesty,’ he said.

Since 1978, over 10 lakh workers of Bangladesh migrated to Malaysia with job visas, according to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training.

Wage Earners’ Welfare Board assistant director in charge of the welfare desk at HSIA Tanvir Hossain  told New Age Monday morning that a large number of male workers of Bangladesh returned from Saudi Arabia recently.

He said that many of the returnees were possibly arrested in Saudi Arabia for changing their workplaces before they were deported.    

On return, the workers said that they were arrested by Saudi police and deported though they had valid visas.

They said that they were briefly in jail before the Saudi police provided them air tickets.

Some of them said that they failed to renew their work permits as high charges were demanded by their employers. About 11,000 Saudi Riyals is needed to renew work permits, they said.

The returnee workers, mostly from Munshiganj, Tangail, Narsingdi, Laxmipur, Noakhali, Madaripur and Meherpur districts, said that they got no help from the Bangladesh embassy in Riyadh.

Delwar Hossain of Madaripur told New Age that he and 32 other Bangladeshi workers were arrested by Saudi police in Riyadh when they were out for shopping.

‘Though I had valid work permit, I was arrested at a shopping mall where I had gone after my duty hours,’ he said.

Delwar worked as security guard at a Saudi home for 11 years and he was deported on Sunday night.

The on-going crackdown began three months ago, he said.

BRAC migration programme officials received the returned migrants at HISA and provided them food and some money to go home.

Over 20 lakh Bangladeshis are currently working in Saudi Arabia, said officials.

Saudi Press Agency recently reported that since November 2017, Saudi police arrested about 3.8 million foreigners for violating residential, labour and border security regulations.

The arrested, includes over 2.95 million for residency violations, 583,602 for breaking labour laws and 247,220 for flouting border security regulations.

And 544, 521 expatriates were arrested since June.

According to the SPA report 940,100 expatriates were deported to their respective countries since November 2017.

Saudi officials told SPA that 64,157 expatriates were arrested while they were attempting to illegally enter into Saudi Arabia.

They said that 2,759 expatriates were arrested while attempting to leave the kingdom illegally.

A total of 4,498 expatriates were arrested for changing address and concealing this information violating the law.

A total of 482,600 expatriates were referred to their respective diplomatic missions to collect travel documents and 630,054 others were waiting to leave Saudi Arabia.

The crackdown on illegal expatriates began on expiry of amnesty in November 2017.

The amnesty was availed by 750,000 expatriates of 140 nationalities, according to SPA.

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