Dhaka demands compensation for workers sent home

Countries that provide jobs to Bangladeshi workers must compensate them if they are sent home before their contracts expire, the government says.

world Updated: Mar 28, 2009 16:42 IST

Countries that provide jobs to Bangladeshi workers must compensate them if they are sent home before their contracts expire, the government says.

Upset at its migrant workers being sent back in large numbers from some of the more developed countries, the government says other nations must pay damages if the workers are forced to return home, The Daily Star reported on Saturday, quoting a minister.

Manpower export, along with readymade garments, is the economic mainstay of Bangladesh. But earnings have registered a fall since the impact of global recession set in.

Dhaka has launched a global drive to stem the tide of the returning workers that would burden its already weak economy.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hasan Mahmud said if migrant workers are forced to leave due to the global recession, it must be ensured that they get compensation and are allowed to stay in the country for a reasonable period to seek remedy for unpaid wages.

He was speaking at an international dialogue on 'Effective Respect for the Human Rights of Migrants: a Shared Responsibility' in Geneva, Switzerland on Thursday.

At least 37 workers returned on Friday from Malaysia, 45 from United Arab Emirates (UAE), two from Saudi Arabia and seven from other countries on special travel passes either for being unemployed or overstaying, increasing the number of such returnees to 8,000 this month.

Although the private sector plays a crucial role in labour mobility, states must ensure that migrant workers do not fall victim to discrimination and cruel or inhuman treatment, the state minister told the dialogue organised by International Organization for Migration (IOM), said a press released on Friday.

Mahmud's remark comes at a time when thousands of Bangladeshi workers are returning home from Malaysia, Singapore, UAE and other countries as a consequence of the global financial meltdown, the newspaper noted.

Malaysia on March 10 cancelled work visas of 55,000 Bangladeshis and has instructed the employers to retrench foreign workers first.

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni is already in Malaysia to hold talks on labour issues while Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain will fly to Malaysia from Geneva on Saturday.

Speaking as a guest of honour at the dialogue, Mahmud said against the backdrop of the global economic recession it has become a common practice to impose restriction on legal migration by foreign workers and repatriate those working in foreign countries.

"We need to keep in mind that raising barriers to legal entry tends to have only a temporary or limited effect and will encourage the flow of would-be migrants towards illegal channels," Mahmud said.

States may expel illegal migrants but they should protect their (migrants) rights without any discrimination as long as they remain in their territories, irrespective of their immigration status, he said.

Commerce Minister Faruk Khan at a meeting with UAE Foreign Trade Minister Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi in Abu Dhabi hoped that UAE will continue hiring more professionals and skilled workers from Bangladesh, said a press release from Bangladesh Embassy in Abu Dhabi.

Qasimi expressed her satisfaction about the performance and discipline of Bangladeshi expatriates and also their valuable contribution to UAE's development.

First Published: Mar 28, 2009 16:41 IST