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                  Volume 11 |Issue 06| February 10, 2012 |


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Human Rights

An Unrealistic Proposal

As of February 1, the attestation of job documents by the Bangladeshi embassies pertaining to foreign overseas employment has been made mandatory by the government of Bangladesh

Naimul Karim

The procedure to receive single visas will be a lot more lengthy and expensive.
Photo: Zahedul I Khan

With an aim to make the Bangladeshi embassies abroad more responsible regarding the transfer of labourers, the government, in a recent move, has made the attestation of job documents by the respective Bangladeshi missions a mandatory procedure. The process, which was earlier required only for 'group' visas, has been made compulsory for individual visas as well. Although the ministry claims that the new ruling will ensure job security and provide revenue to the embassies, several non-resident Bangladeshis and recruiting agencies have criticised the new move.

According to Mohammad Abu Faisal, an Account Executive from Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia, the Bangladeshi embassy in the Kingdom has limited resources and does not have the ability to attest each and every document. “To get clearance from the Bangladesh Embassy in Saudi, it may take months or may not even happen if done legally. However, if you bribe them, you may get the clearance from the Bangladesh Embassy in days or weeks. At times companies do cancel the visas for such hassles and recruit new employees from other countries,” he says.

Echoing Faisal's sentiments Serajuddin Ahmed, director of a recruiting agency, claims that the new rule would make the visa application process more lengthy and expensive. “Bangladeshi missions are not available everywhere, for instance, in Saudi, if Riyadh has an embassy, Abha may not. So the question is, will companies take the trouble of going that extra mile just to hire a Bangladeshi? I don't think so.” He goes on to say that Bangladeshi embassies have been known to malfunction and that they are still not ready for such a huge responsibility.

Perhaps Ahmed's opinion of the Bangladeshi missions was reflected in Malaysia as a report published in The Daily Star claims that the workers there 'faced the worst ever abuses in 2007, 2008 and 2009' despite the attestation of their documents. The report further accuses the embassy in Kuala Lumpur of attesting documents of 'fake companies', which eventually lead to a waste of public money.

Adding to the embassies' criticism, Jamal Hossain, a businessman from Saudi Arabia says, “Foreigners from other countries can probably even kill a person and still receive protection in their own embassy. The Bangladeshi embassy however, is completely opposite, it relieves itself of all its duties. They bring along with them the dirty politics outside the country and rarely answer our calls.”

The new rule will make it very difficult for Bangladeshis to work abroad. photo: Tanvir Ahmed/Driknews

The new rule poses a lot more problems for residents who plan to work in countries, which have no Bangladeshi embassies. According to Riaydh Quadir, a non-resident Bangladeshi, the new rule will complicate matters a lot since the majority of jobs are arranged personally in many of these countries. He says, “This new process will discourage companies from hiring Bangladeshis and will have a negative impact on the foreign remittances.”

With a healthy foreign exchange reserve, the inflow of remittances has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise failing economy. However, with more than ninety percent of the non-resident Bangladeshis depending upon individual visas, the new rule is bound to have a negative effect on the remittances column. “Although the motive behind the new rule is a positive one, the government should ensure a system that doesn't affect our remittances. The foreign income is one of Bangladesh's most important sources of revenue, we shouldn't be losing out on this,” says Mustafa K Mujeri, Director General of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.

With several Bangladeshi citizens, especially in the Middle East, already facing visa problems, the new rule can only complicate matters further. For instance, Saudi Arabia, which was once a haven for labourers, has restricted the provision of work visas for Bangladeshis. A recent report claims that the Kingdom will not renew work visas of Bangladeshis who have worked for more than six years in the country.

Adding to these woes, the labour market conditions for overseas employment has been greatly tilted towards the 'host' countries. There was a time when work visas could have been secured without a high charge and recruiters dealing with most of the financial aspects involved in such procedures. Today however, the conditions are almost opposite. The wages of migrant workers have dropped, workers have to deal with all the expenditures starting from the air-fare and several migrants are often cheated with regard to their 'hours of work' and salary upon their arrival.

With Bangladeshi missions having almost no influence with regard to the lives of their country's citizens and with jobs hard to come by, the new rule can only act as a barrier for the dreams of the many Bangladeshis who plan to work abroad. As claimed by the majority of citizens living outside the country, the rule is a new means of breeding corruption in the Bangladeshi missions and destroying one of the most important pillars of the country's economy.

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