The COVID-19 pandemic has left many migrants vulnerable to abuse. Migrant workers face a range of abuses from employers, including deceptive recruitment practices, wage theft, passport confiscation, unsafe living and working conditions and excessive work demands. The spread of COVID-19 and the lockdown to contain it has only exacerbated these conditions.
In an effort to address these ongoing situations civil society and trade union came together on the discussion session titled “COVID-19 and world changes: Bangladeshi labour migrants and our duties” to ensure migrants’ right as well as to define our engagements during this pandemic.
The discussion session was co-hosted by CSOs for Global Commitments on Migration (CGCM), Bangladesh Labour Rights Forum (BLRF) & Bangladesh Nari Sromik Kendra (BNSK) at Dhaka Reporters Unity on 1st September 2020.
Sumaiya Islam, Executive Director of BNSK and co-organizer of the event, highlighted how the civil society and trade unions came together to protect migrants rights and promised to continue this collaboration. She also demanded immediate compensation for women migrant workers who have been denied wage and action against the responsible recruiting agencies.
Syeed Ahamed stated, the case of Raihan Kabir shows that the right to protest and demand justice is universal and should definitely be protected by all means both at home and abroad. The govt. of Bangladesh, particularly the embassies, need to take a stronger position in protecting the rights of migrants. The sending countries also need to have a better collaboration with civil society organizations and trade unions to make sure cases such as this never happen.
Abul Hossain, convenor of BLRF as well as the moderator of the event, called for south-asian unity among the organizations working for labour rights to ensure rights of the migrants in the destination countries.
Razekuzzaman Ratan from Socialist Labour Front (SLF) stressed on the unity of the migrants’ right movement. He stated, when individuals demand something it’s often overlooked, only when people unite and demand the same thing it becomes a movement. This is why we need a broader united front to carry forward our demands for the workers rights.
Number to returnee migrants shared their experiences at the event. Among them were Rayhan Kabir, the returnee migrant from Malaysia. He mentioned that the Malaysian judiciary couldn’t file any case against him as he did nothing illegal in speaking up against the mistreatment of Bangladeshi migrant workers. He also expressed his wish to continue working for the rights of migrant workers, now that he has been discharged.
Other returnee migrants also shared how they were tortured and required to work inhuman shifts doing tasks beyond their contract for little to no payment. One of the migrant workers shared that she used to get a higher payment here in Bangladesh, working in the RMG industry, then she got working tirelessly in the middle east. Another woman mentioned she was forced to work without any payment for 2 years.
Among other attendees were Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmmed, Workers Specialist of ILO, ACTRAV, South Asia; Advocate Salma Ali, ED of BNWLA; Sanjib Pandey from Asia Monitor Resource Centre; Kohinoor Mahamood, Director of BILS; Ashim Kumar Roy labour leader from India and Zakir Hossain from BLRF.