Abu Dhabi: A key reason why Bangladeshi expatriates in the UAE end up violating the labour law is due to the phenomenon of unscrupulous recruiters who overcharge desperate job-seekers, said a top Bangladeshi diplomat.
A few of them abscond from employers in search of better paid jobs or get involved in illegal part-time jobs because they have to recover huge amount of money they paid to unscrupulous recruitment agents for visas, Mohammad Imran, Bangladeshi Ambassador to the UAE, told Gulf News.
To curb illegal recruitment, Bangladesh plans to extend its national database project to cover their overseas workers bound for the UAE and other Gulf States, he said.
There are an estimated 800,000 Bangladeshi expatriates in the UAE.
Bangladesh launched the national database for recruitment of workers to Malaysia as part of a bilateral arrangement with that country, Imran said.
A semi-government agency has been constituted to manage the recruitment and it has opened offices in all districts across the country.
“Prospective employees can submit their CV (Curriculum Vitae) at those centres free of cost and they will be selected for jobs in Malaysia.”
Media reports said Malaysia plans to recruit 1.4 million Bangladeshi workers in stages to fill labour shortages in the plantation and service sectors under a bilateral agreement.
He said workers were paying up to $4,000 to recruitment agents for one overseas job.
A Bangladeshi minister said the bilateral deal has reduced the cost of recruitment per worker from $4,000 (Dh14,680) to $400 (Dh1,468).
“Earlier, they (workers) had to work for four to five years to cover the cost because of exploitation by middlemen. Now they can settle the amount in two months,” Khandker Mosharraf Hossain, Bangladeshi Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister, told reporters last week.
The ambassador said in a desperate attempt to recover hefty amount paid for such go-betweens, this leads them to violate labour laws of the host country.
The national database project cuts off the recruitment agents in the process, Imran said.
He did not say when the project will cover Bangladeshis being recruited to Gulf countries. The Dhaka government considers the UAE and other Gulf States as a key destination for its expatriate workers, he said.
Dhaka is also set to craft a new law on foreign employment, which will hold recruitment agents more accountable. The Cabinet has already approved the draft law that will be referred to the parliament soon, the envoy said.
Problems of Bangladeshi workers in the UAE originate from the recruitment process in their home country. Many recruitment agents charge higher recruitment fees than that of legally permitted.
As Gulf News reported earlier the Sri Lankan Embassy in Abu Dhabi said there is an inverse relationship between the number of runaway housemaids and that of blacklisted recruitment agencies, at least in the case of Sri Lankans in the capital.
The more the number of unscrupulous recruitment agents blacklisted by the authorities, the less was the number of runaway housemaids taking refuge in the embassy’s shelter house. The number of runaway housemaids in the shelter house of the Sri Lankan Embassy in Abu Dhabi had gone down by at least 80 per cent in the past three years preceding 2012.
The downward trend began when the embassy started taking strict action against unscrupulous recruitment agencies. The number of complaints related to other labour disputes also started going down. Unscrupulous recruitment agencies are mostly responsible for the disputes between workers and employers, the embassy said.
Many prospective employees in Asian countries take loans from money sharks at exorbitant interest rates to pay that fee as they are lured by the exaggerated salary figures in the labour contracts offered by the agents.
It is the beginning of ‘contract substitution’ as the agents give a different contract with less salary and different terms when they reach the UAE. Most labour disputes originate from this contract substitution.