Thousands of Bangladeshi workers who have gone to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with so-called free visas or individual visas may face deportation as the authorities continue a crackdown on undocumented workers, according to officials and workers already deported.
At least 404 such Bangladeshi male workers have so far been detained, sent to jail and finally deported by the Saudi authorities since October 3 as crackdown on Bangladeshi workers began there.
At least 9.42 lakh workers from Bangladesh were recruited by Saudi Arabia since 2015 and 70 per cent of them went there with free visa or individual visas, according to officials at Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training.
Bangladesh embassy’s labour counsellor Md Sarwar Alam, talking to New Age on Sunday, claimed that the undocumented workers who failed to return to Bangladesh during the last amnesty granted by the Saudi government were being detained and deported.
Besides, those who changed their original employers without permission were being detained and sent back, he said, adding that Bangladeshi workers who went to the kingdom with so-called free visas were not getting jobs there properly.
‘The situation has changed in Saudi Arabia. Workers are not getting good jobs as they previously did. The workers now do not get wage more than 800 to 1,000 riyals per months,’ he said.
A team, led by expatriate welfare and overseas employment ministry’s additional secretary Mohammad Azharul Huq, during their visit to the kingdom in April 2017 found thousands of male workers, who went there with free visas, without jobs and stranded in different cities of Saudi Arabia.
The team also found some recruiting agencies responsible for this wretched condition of the workers who appealed to the Bangladesh government for not
sending workers with free visa.
But no such initiative has so far been taken by the government.
Migration experts have urged the government to take immediate steps to stop sending workers through such individual visa and bring reforms to the process of recruitment of Bangladeshi workers in Saudi Arabia.
A senior official at expatriates welfare and overseas employment ministry has told New Age that prime minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to visit Saudi Arabia in the current month when she will discuss the issues of Bangladeshi workers with Saudi authorities.
Rakib Miah of village Sholpur under Rajoir upazila in Madaripur, who returned from Saudi Arabia on Sunday, told New Age that he was arrested by the Saudi police when he went out to buy water from a local shop in Dammam.
He went to Saudi Arabia about 19 months ago with so-called free visa spending Tk 7 lakh and he would do various domestic works.
Police detained and put him in jail for eight days and finally deported to Bangladesh.
At least 110 Bangladeshi workers deported by a Saudi Arabia arrived in Dhaka on Sunday.
Rakib said that every day hundreds of Bangladeshi workers were being arrested by the Saudi police and put them in jails in Dammam for deportation.
‘I request the Bangladeshi workers not to think of going to Saudi Arabia as the authorities did not hear any appeal of the workers and forcedly sent back home,’ he said.
During his deportation, his passport was with his Kafil (employer) who did not help him, he said.
Mohammad Yusuf of village Haripiur of Akhaura in Brahmanbaria, who was deported on October 3, told New Age on Sunday that he went to Saudi Arabia about 17 month ago spending Tk 6.75 lakh to work as a gardener.
He would get as monthly wage 500 Saudi Riyal, equivalent to Tk 12,000. After completing his duty, he used to wash cars and earn extra. Police caught him while he was washing a car and put him into jail for 16 days before deportation along with 144 workers on the same day.
He claimed that he had legal work permits and police forcedly sent him back.
BRAC migration programme head Shariful Hasan said that deportation of such 404 workers from Saudi Arabia within a short time was very unusual and the ministry concerned and Bangladesh embassy should investigate the matter to find out the real cause of deportation.
‘It is urgent to stop sending workers with free visas, which does not guarantee job,’ he said.
As huge number of workers already migrated to the Arab country with so-called visas, he said that a large number of them were in fear of deportation.
Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Programme chairman Shakirul Islam told New Age that the government would have to play a proactive role to find out why documented Bangladeshi male workers were being sent back.
He demanded full abolishment of individual visas which were causing problems to the migrant workers and benefitted the brokers and recruiting agencies only.
Shakirul also said that workers should be sent to Saudi Arabia under bilateral agreement with company visa to be collected by the recruiting agencies.
WARBE Development Foundation chairman Syed Saiful Haque said that governments of both Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia should probe the issues.
He demanded that both governments take steps to bring reforms in the current recruitment systems as the current system was creating problems for the workers and increase the migration cost.