Around 4,500 female workers who were working as housemaids in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia returned home in last three years allegedly being sexually abused, denied wages, physically tortured among other problems, officials and recruiting agencies have said.
Parvin Akther of Savar returned home from Saudi Arabia on January 13 without getting wages for seven months among her working period of 14 months in the country, said activists working for welfare of female migrant workers.
Not only denial of wage, she faced physical tortures when she had demanded her wages.
Parvin, who had paid Tk 40,000 to broker for her housemaid job, returned home empty handed, BOMSA general secretary Sheikh Rumana told New Age, adding that like Parvin many were facing the same fate in the Middle East.
After arriving in Bangladesh in January 13, Parvin started working with Bangladeshi Ovhibashi Mahila Sramik Association along with 17 other female migrants who recently returned home from the KSA facing various problems.
‘Those female workers who are going to the KSA with family arranged visas are facing more problems there,’ observed Rumana, also a returnee migrant-turned rights activist.
She said that the female workers are paid lower than the commitment made in the country before their departure.
Migrant rights activists have expressed grave concerns over repression of female migrants compelling them to return home from Saudi Arabia, which recruited most of the female workers from Bangladesh since 2015.
They appealed to the government of Bangladesh to explore alternative markets for the women migrants, especially in Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Thailand and the European countries, to protect them from abuses and ensure their rights.
According to officials at Wage Earner Welfare Board, at least 2,641 female workers returned home in 2017 alone while a good number were still waiting at safe homes and immigration camp in Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, some 1,672 workers came to the safe home in Jeddah between 2015 and 2017. Of them, 1,648 returned home until 2017, according to data available with WEWB.
WEWB officials told New Age that at least 331 women returned from Riyadh in January this year and the welfare board provided them local transportation cost to reach their home from Dhaka airport.
Bangladeshi female workers lodged complaints of abuse, torture, non-payment of wages and over works which caused their repatriation, said officials.
Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies joint secretary general Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman said that around 4,500 female workers returned home from Saudi Arabia since 2015.
He, however, said that the number of returning women was not that high compared to that of their total outflow in last three years.
BOMSA director Sumaiya Islam said that the country’s female workers were being seriously violated in the gulf states including Saudi Arabia where the female workers are considered ‘products and not human being.’
‘Female workers should be sent to the civilised countries where they will get due recognition of their labours,’ she suggested.
Migrant rights organiser and WARBE Development Foundation chairman Syed Saiful Haque said that women workers should be sent with better jobs such as garment workers and caregivers.
Describing housemaid jobs vulnerable to various violations, he said that the government should properly prepare housemaids by giving adequate trainings on languages, food habits and rules of the host countries.
Syed Saiful Haque, who has been advocating for migrants’ human rights at national, regional and international level since 1997, stressed that the protections of domestic workers should be ensured through bilateral agreements between host and home countries.
The BLA should be followed in the light of ILO convention 189 that ensures specific protection to domestic workers, he said.
Dhaka and Riyadh signed a deal on hiring domestic helps from Bangladesh in 2015 with a minimum monthly wage of 800 Saudi Riyals (equivalent to Tk 16,600) each.
Around 700,000 million female workers went abroad between 1991 and 2017. Of them, more than 200,000 went to Saudi Arabia.