Bangladesh must act fast to seize the opportunities presented by the changing realities of the migrant labour market in Gulf Cooperation Council countries, said academicians and migrant rights campaigners.
Talking to New Age on Saturday, they said that the prevailing middlemen-dependent recruitment system could be a major obstacle for Bangladesh in tapping into benefits from GCC countries’ recent moves to end controversial ‘kafala’ or labour sponsorship system.
Qatar government has declared a new contract-based system recently replacing the kafala system that made it mandatory for foreign workers to seek their employer’s permission to change jobs or to leave the country.
Terming the abolition of the system in Qatar a welcome move towards ending ‘modern-day slavery of migrant workers’, they urged the government to improve labour recruitment management to send right workers with right jobs.
The founding chair of the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit at the University of Dhaka, Tasneem Siddiqui, also a political science professor at the university, said that migrant workers in Qatar could now be able to change Kafils or sponsors easily.
She believes that its long term impact would be positive for Bangladesh, a labour sending country; however, the government must play its part in collecting ‘good contracts to send workers’ to Qatari companies.
Claiming that almost all of migrant workers were going abroad through middlemen, the campaigners advocated for making the government database of 22 lakh aspirant migrant workers functional to reduce involvement of middlemen as well as lowering the cost of migration.
Bangladesh missions in GCC countries should thoroughly examine the employment demands offered by employers to ensure that workers get secure jobs in destination countries, they emphasised.
The workers who are taking overseas jobs under so-called ‘free visas’ should not be allowed to do so in order to reduce fraudulent practices, they suggested.
Manpower employment and training bureau director general Salim Reza told New Age that with Qatar abolishing kafala system, Bangladeshi workers there would be able to change their jobs for better ones without much hassle.
He assured that the government had taken steps to introduce ‘an ideal system of recruitment’ that would reduce dependency on middlemen.
Bangladeshi Ovhibashi Mohila Sramik Association director Sumaiya Islam hoped that the new system replacing kafala would restore dignity of migrant workers.
Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program chairman Shakirul Islam welcomed the step and urged the Qatari government to ensure protection of migrants’ rights in the new contract-based law.
Apart from Qatar, the Bahrain government has begun the process of abolishing their kafala system and in October this year, it announced a new flexible work permit system that allows migrant workers to act as their own sponsor.
The United Nations has urged Kuwait to abolish its kafala system.
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