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16 November, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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‘Stringent Saudi laws force Bangladeshis to return’

Saudi govt’s general amnesty for expats ended in Nov 2017
HARUN UR RASHID, Dhaka
‘Stringent Saudi laws force Bangladeshis to return’
Nurul (Siraj) Islam and his two children wait to receive his wife Sumi Akter at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka yesterday. Bangladesh called on November 3 for a migrant worker to be repatriated from Saudi Arabia after her tearful video alleging sexual abuse highlighted the exploitation faced by poor Asians working abroad. AFP photo

Enforcement of stringent labour laws on migrant workers by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) government is responsible for the return of Bangladeshi workers. The Bangladesh government says it has nothing to do but comply with the laws of Saudi Arabia, and the workers too have to abide by it. Sources in the expatriate welfare and overseas employment ministry said almost everyday, some workers were returning home after being caught by the Saudi police for working illegally or working unlawfully by violating the terms and conditions of their appointments.

Sources in the Wage Earners’ Welfare Board (WEWB) said the market of Saudi Arabia is shrinking as its government is slashing different occupations or stopping different sectors for migrant workers.

According to the recent public notice issued by the Bangladesh Embassy in Riyadh, the general amnesty by the Saudi government for the expatriate workers ended in November 2017.

Under the programme ‘Nation without Violation’, the Saudi government sent back expatriate workers to their respective countries through deportation centres for breaching the laws of Iqama, border and labour laws of the country, the notice said.

It further said many of the Bangladeshi expatriate workers collect Iqama (resident ID) from the sponsors and work under the so-called ‘free visas’, and think that Iqama is enough for the validity of their stay.

But Iqama is not enough as a valid proof. If anyone works outside the sponsors by taking legal and valid Iqama, or flees from the sponsor or breaches any provision of the Iqama, border and labour laws, the law enforcement agency concerned can detain such persons with specific allegation as per law, and send them back through the deportation centre financed by the Saudi government, it added.

The Saudi government recently imposed a ban on certain occupations and sectors for non-Saudi people, the notice said, adding

that if any expatriate is engaged in such  occupations, he/she will be considered illegal and the Saudi government can detain the illegal expatriate workers and send them back home.

The embassy also said it has appointed a

representative at the deportation centre of the Bangladesh Embassy in Riyadh to listen to the detained workers. If any worker thinks he/she is innocent, the consulate office informs the matter to the Saudi authorities and then the Saudi government takes necessary steps after investigation.

In addition, if any worker who has returned home from Saudi Arabia submits any written specific allegation in this respect, the request for investigation is sent through the Saudi foreign ministry as per the laws, the notice said.

The consulate office in Riyadh said if any Bangladeshi worker is detained by the Saudi authorities without following rules, the person can submit a written allegation or email the allegation to labourwing.riyadh@yahoo.com.

Saudi Arabia has been detaining people for residential, labour and border security regulations since November 2017.

According to the recent report of the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the Saudi authorities have arrested approximately 3.8 million foreigners as it continues its crackdown on labour and residency violators.  

A total of 3,790,173 people have been arrested, including over 2.95 million for residency violations, 5,83,602 for breaking labour laws and 2,47,220 for flouting border regulations, the report said.

The report also stated 9,40,100 expatriates have been deported to their respective countries since November 2017.

As per the WEWB, in the last 10 months, 13,301 Bangladeshi workers have returned home, while this number was 11,078 in 2018.

Sources said in the first seven days of November, 421 workers have returned from the KSA. On November 7, a total of 96 workers returned home from Saudi Arabia.

WEWB sources said approximately 21 lakh Bangladeshi workers were in Saudi Arabia till February this year.

Sources said the Saudi government has taken stern steps not to allow anybody to stay in the Kingdom with ‘free visas’ by 2022.

However, sources in the foreign ministry and the expatriate welfare and overseas employment ministry said the number of Bangladeshi workers returning home from the KSA is low compared to those staying there.

The additional secretary (migrant welfare wing) of the expatriate welfare and overseas employment ministry, Dr Ahmed Munirus Saleheen, told The Independent recently: “The Saudi government has been exercising its laws in a stringent way since 2017. The workers have to abide by the laws while working there.”

“If any worker is undocumented, we have nothing to do here,” he said, when asked what the Bangladesh consulate can do. “However, we are working through the diplomatic channel with the Saudi government to increase negotiations for better opportunities for our workers,” he said.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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