“Whenever I wanted to talk to my relatives, my employers misbehaved with me. They did not pay me. They did not give me enough food. I had to slog hard day and night. At one point I fled and went to the Bangladesh embassy,” said Rahima Khatun, a migrant worker who returned from Saudi Arabia a few months ago, narrating her ordeal abroad while speaking to Prothom Alo.
Rahima, from Keraniganj in Dhaka, was talking to this correspondent on the sidelines of a press conference organised by Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation (OSHE) at Dhaka Reporters Unity on Sunday morning.
Rahima said a large number of Bangladeshi women migrants are allegedly tortured and abused in Saudi Arabia.
The Bangladesh embassy is doing nothing for them, she alleged.
“I stayed at the embassy shelter home for 20 days. There were about 5,000 women. I saw two women giving birth and around 250 women pregnant,” said Rahima who managed to return home as one of her relative in Saudi Arabia bought her a ticket. “Those who have no relatives in Saudi Arabia can hardly return,” she said.
“When I was at the shelter home, a woman from Sylhet said her employer took her to different hotels at night. One day she fled and came to the shelter home,” Rahima Khatun added.
Rahima, who now works as a day labourer in her locality, also alleged she did not get any money in five months although she spent Tk 150,000 to go to Saudi Arabia.
Like Rahima, many female migrants face the same fate in the destination countries including Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Qatar, Malaysia and Oman.
According to the government statistics, a total of 973,000 migrants have gone abroad between January and November 2017. Of them, a total of 118,000 are women.
OSHE executive director AR Chowdhury Repon said the migrant workers bring in a huge amount of foreign currency by dint of their labout abroad. They contribute to the development of the country.
While working abroad, the migrants suffer from various health complications and they have to work under stress and in an unhealthy environment, he said.
In a written statement, OSHE vice chairman SM Morshed said a total of 3154 dead bodies arrive from different countries between January and November 2017.
“We think these are not normal deaths. We think the government should investigate the main cause of deaths of the migrants,” he added.
Morshed said the health officers of factories generally put down cardiac arrest as the cause of death.
Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation at the press conference made a 9-point demand to ensure safety and security of the migrants.
The demands are: Health and safety issues have to be included in the training and briefing of the bureau of manpower, employment and training, aspirant migrants have to be informed about their rights in the destination country, health of out-bound migrants and returnees have to be checked at government hospitals and occupational safety and health helpline has to be launched at the labour wings.