July 30, 2021

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Expatriate women are not released back in the country

Aklima Khatun (not her real name), 34, who immigrated to Jordan last July through a recruiting agency called MH Trade International. But after four months, he lost his mental balance and returned to the country. After landing at the airport, law enforcement officers saw his uncontrollable movements and handed him over to the private company BRAC.

The list of those who left everything and went abroad to ‘live a little better’ and return after losing everything is very long. These women do not get relief from torture even after returning to the country. Many become pregnant or return to the country with their children, but the family and society do not want to accept them. Due to this fear, many women return home leaving their children in a shelter.

According to the non-governmental organizations BRAC and the Bangladesh Institute of Labor Studies (BILS), the bodies of more than 500 women workers have arrived in the country in the last five years. Of these, more than two hundred bodies came from Saudi Arabia.

According to BRAC, 1 million women migrated from 1991 to 2020. There are more than a thousand women who have lost their mental balance and become disabled due to torture. Despite limited air traffic due to the Corona epidemic, the bodies of six women workers have returned to the country. The bodies of 139 people came last year.

BRAC has investigated the cause of death of 48 women. It has been seen that 6 people have died in suicide. 17 people died of stroke. Besides, 61 people were killed and two others injured in the accident. 48 people died due to other reasons. 115 people died of natural causes.

Of the 48 bodies, 198 came from Saudi Arabia, six from Jordan, 61 from Lebanon, 53 from Oman and 39 from the United Arab Emirates.

Shariful Hasan, head of BRAC’s immigration program, said five women from Saudi Arabia had recently returned home pregnant. And two women workers have returned from Oman with children. Almost all of them returned to the country and were humiliated in the family and society.

Kamala (not her real name) was forced to return home from Oman on February 24 with a four-month-old daughter. He told law enforcement that his child’s father was a citizen of Oman. He was handed over to the Oman police after he became pregnant at one stage of sexual abuse. She then gave birth at the Oman Deportation Camp. From there he was sent back to the country. Kamala is currently mentally ill. He went to Oman in 2016 through ‘MH Trade International’. Kamala’s home is Laxmipur.

Last week, a 32-year-old woman returned home from Saudi Arabia with a six-month-old baby. The child’s father is a citizen of Saudi Arabia. After returning to the country, the woman left her child in a shelter and returned to her village home in Brahmanbaria. His fear is that the child will not be accepted by the people of the house or the society.

Analysts say that if female workers are not sent, male workers will not be hired. The employer is forced to send female workers due to such unwritten conditions in the country. Various initiatives have been taken by the government to make women’s migration dynamic. Various policies have been made. But the responsibility has stopped until the policy is made. In practice, the policy is not enforced. And the government tries to impose all the responsibility on the recruiting agency.

In 2019, the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment issued 12 directives to ensure the protection of women workers abroad. Concerned people say that if these instructions were followed, it was possible to ensure the safety of women workers. But not applied. The directive emphasizes training and health examinations before sending them abroad, but this is not seen in practice. 15 days training is given instead of 30 days. Although women workers have been asked to provide mobile phones, they are not getting that benefit.

Sumaiya Islam, executive director of BNSK, said, “The state is indifferent towards those who are returning pregnant. Private companies are trying to be by their side. My guess is that 80 percent of those who return from abroad cannot sustain their families.

Farida Yasmin, executive director of the Bangladesh Migrant Women Workers Association (BAMSA), said: ‘The lack of training is a big problem. Expatriate environment, culture, law, etiquette — not much is taught about them. There are many things that are legal in Bangladesh, illegal in other countries. An integrated study is needed here. We need to talk to the victims to find out what problems they are facing.

An official from the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Foreign Affairs, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “We often receive complaints of torture in Saudi Arabia. But the representative of the recruiting agency is far away and the embassy officials are not allowed to go to the spot. If you receive a complaint of sexual harassment, you have to go to the hospital and collect a report. Those who become pregnant have to fight a legal battle from a safe home there. That often takes a year. They do not want to stay so long. There are many situations due to which even if the government wants, they do not get help.