Address gaps in migrants act ‘13: experts

Md Owasim Uddin Bhuyan | Published: 00:45, Dec 08,2019


The Overseas Employment and Migrants Act 2013 does not have the provisions for facilitating rescue, witness protection, legal assistance, cross-country collaboration and admissibility of electronic evidence, according to lawyers.

They noted that the law also was yet to incorporate affirmative measures to safeguard the rights of vulnerable groups, required under UN Conventions, migrating into domestic work abroad.

The gaps in the law were detected in a research by advocate M Harunur Rashid and advocate Saleha Begum and highlighted by advocate Farida Yeasmin at a national consultation on collaboration among trade unions and civil society organisations for safe, orderly and regular migration.

The Solidarity Centre Bangladesh organised the consultation on Wednesday at the Banangladesh Institute of International Strategic Studies auditorium to launch a common platform of trade unions and civil society organisations for national advocacy on migration in Bangladesh.

Farida Yeasmin, also programme director of the Bangladeshi Ovibashi Mohila Sramik Association, said, ‘The act does not incorporate the general right to redress in the event of contractual rights violations.’

She said that the law remained silent on penalties for physical, sexual, and psychological violations committed by recruiting agents and on how to address compensation claims for more serious abuse and exploitation at the hands of agents, recruitment agencies, employer or other institutions.

‘The law is also silent on protection of rights of the informal or irregular workers and any well-defined complaint procedure and any government monitoring and inspection procedures for recruiting agencies,’ she added.

She went on that the law did not establish a general right to redress in the event that contractual rights were violated.

The act provides a separate chapter that deals with recruiting agents and licenses, but it fails to point out the roles of sub-agents or sub-contractors (even though they are major suppliers), she observed.

‘The agents often deny responsibilities, shielding themselves from legal and practical liability by using unregistered individual brokers, agents and/or sub-contractors,’ Farida Yeasmin said.

The act addresses contractual requirements but the provisions are unclear in some cases, such as Section 22 (1) in the act specifies one contract (between the recruited worker and the overseas employer) but other contracts are not specified in the act, she told New Age about contract shortcomings.

She said, ‘There is no penalty mentioned in the law if recruitment agencies don’t provide contracts, or provide inadequate contracts and there is no established remedy for migrant workers who do not receive a contract as required’

Participating in the discussion over the presentation, Solidarity Centre senior programme officer Lily Gomes said that both the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act 2012 and the Overseas Employment and Migrants Act 2013 were enacted for protection of the migrant workers.

‘Steps should [therefore] be taken for extensive use and proper implementation of the acts,’ she commented.

Emphasizing cross-country collaboration, Bangladesh Civil Society for Migration co-chair Syed Saiful Haue told New Age that trade unionists’ engagement in migration would bolster government’s position to protect the rights of migrant workers.

Besides, the trade unionists can play a strong role in destination countries through their global networks, he added.

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