Around 67 per cent of Bangladeshi returnee migrants lost per capita Tk 1.8 lakh in wages and other benefits on average, said a study report.
The study - ‘Addressing Systemic Challenges of Wage Theft: Bangladesh Covid-19 Returnees from the Gulf States’ - jointly conducted by the Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit (RMMRU) and the Bangladesh Civil Society for Migrants (BCSM) revealed the findings at a virtual programme on Wednesday.
A male returnee lost Tk 1,94,000 and a female Tk 97,000 on average. The lowest loss of a returnee amounted to Tk 2,124 and the highest was Tk 6,00,143. On average, each returnee lost their salary of more than six months as their average monthly income was Tk 27,970.
Among the countries where returnee migrants lost their wages, the UAE topped the list with Tk 2,42,419 on average for each returnee, followed by Kuwait (Tk 2,13,529), Qatar (Tk 1,76,313), Saudi Arabia (Tk 1,68,665).
Other countries in the list include Oman (Tk 1,41,729) and Bahrain (Tk 1,15,814).
Migrants employed since pre-2015 lost Tk 2,38,766 on average. Those who migrated between 2015 and 2019 suffered a loss of Tk 1,52,521 and those who recently went abroad lost Tk 1,59,234 on average.
On the other hand, workers with valid visas lost Tk 1,76,403 while workers with irregular status lost Tk 1,98,064.
Among the returnees, 48.6 per cent lost their jobs, 38.7 per cent experienced wage cuts, 15.5 per cent experienced reduced working hours though 72 per cent of returnees were full-timers with valid contracts before the pandemic.
Around 63 per cent were forced to return or stay back in Bangladesh. Among them, 15.6 per cent were sacked, 35.7 per cent suffered joblessness, 24.1 per cent migrants’ visas expired and employers refused to extend, 11.1 per cent faced vis cancellation, and 13.5 per cent were in detention centres before their repatriation.
As many as 92 per cent of expatriate Bangladeshis did not register complaints before departure for their country of origin. Of them, 35 per cent cited lack of information about where to file complaints, 20 per cent had no reason to believe that recovery was possible, 10 per cent for fear of being blacklisted, 11 per cent cited absolute dependence on employer and restriction on movements.
In the study, 1,160 returnee migrants were interviewed from 45 districts between March 25 and May 6 this year. Among the respondents, 85 per cent were male and 15 per cent female. As many as 45 per cent returned from Saudi Arabia, 15 per cent from the UAE and Oman respectively, 11 per cent from Kuwait, 10 per cent from Qatar while four per cent returned from Bahrain.
BCSM Chair and RMMRU Executive Director CR Abrar presented the study findings. “No international norm was followed on their departure. The government gave a blind eye to the employers’ (Gulf countries) unethical decisions out of the fear of impacting future migration. If returnees were able to repatriate their due wages, it could help them,” Abrar said.
“It is the government’s duty to document the returnees and their dues which could help them claim compensations in the future. The UN should be engaged in this process,” he said.