Abused in Saudi, scores of female domestic workers return to Bangladesh

Written by Sabrangindia | Published on: June 14, 2018

22 Bangladeshi female migrant workers have died due to rape and other reasons in Saudi Arabia. At least, 1500 female workers have been sent to Bangladesh from safe homes of Jeddah and Riyadh of Saudi Arabia in between May 2015 to May 2018. Most of the returnees have lost their working ability due to physical torture. Moreover, they are being humiliated by their family and society. Socially and economically they are living in a vulnerable condition says Ain O Salish Kendra.

 

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Bangladesh: Carrying scars of beatings, burns and broken bones, Bangladeshi female migrant domestic workers are coming back home from Saudi Arabia. Facing exploitation first through agents and families, these workers have also faced physical, mental and sexual abuse at the hands of their Saudi employers. According to reports, about 200 women return every month and at least 800 women returned home over the last four months.
 
“The Saudi Arabia National Recruitment Committee signed a memorandum of understanding with Bangladesh Association of International Recruitment Agencies or BAIRA to recruit house-helps from Bangladesh in April 2011. However, no women house-helps went to the kingdom despite the signing of the MoU, as an interview of 150 house-helps from Indonesia, Philippines and Sri Lanka working in Saudi Arabia published in a report by Human Rights Watch in 2010 revealed ‘physical and mental torture’ on them. Saudi Arabia again signed a treaty with Bangladesh to recruit women house-help in 2015. The treaty included a clause that three male workers will be recruited against one female house-help. Bangladesh began to send women house-helps following it. At least 83,354 women workers were sent to Saudi Arabia last year. This year 30,000 women went to Saudi Arabia as of April. Almost 175,000 women house-helps went to Saudi Arabia over the last four years,” reported bdnews24.
 
The story is eerily similar for every woman that comes back. Almost all of them report being overworked, underfed, tortured, beaten, raped and cheated out of their salaries. When they return, their families refuse to take them back and, in some cases, even pronounce them dead even though they are alive.
 
The Middle East Eye reported that “The Bangladeshi government in the past claimed that the women returned home after being unable to integrate into Saudi culture.” “Followed by a visit to Saudi Arabia, members of a parliamentary committee said lack of knowledge in local language, dislikes for Saudi food and homesickness cause the women to return home,” reported bdnews24.
 
On Monday, a group of 11 organisations committed to migrant rights submitted a memorandum to EWOE (expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment) secretary demanding that the ministry take protective measures for women migrants facing abuses in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The participating organisations included Ain o Salish Kendra, Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit, WARBE Development Foundation, Bangladeshi Ovhibashi Mohila Sramik Association, Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program, BRAC migration Programme and IMA research Foundation.
 
Ain O Salish Kendra’s observations
Sabrang India received a letter by one of the 11 NGOs, Ain o Salish Kendra from Bangladesh:
 
Physically and mentally tortured Bangladeshi female migrant domestic workers are returning to the country from different Middle-eastern countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon. Most of them are returning with the help of Government or human rights organizations to save their lives. Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) expresses its grave concern over this matter and demands the government’s effective and urgent attention to ensure safe and secure migration.
 
According to media reports, female domestic workers are returning to Bangladesh from Saudi Arabia and other Middle-eastern countries after being brutally tortured. Human rights organizations like Ain o Salish Kendra are receiving applications requesting rescue on a daily basis either by the victims themselves or their family members.
 
Mostly, all of them share the same stories of brutality. We are receiving regular complains regarding the denial of wages, sexual abuse by the male family members, physical and mental torture by the employer, not allowing the cell phone or any connection with family or embassy, no set work time, no leave etc. Besides that, they face theft and sabotage case by the employer. Even if they could manage to escape, they are forced to return to the owner despite seeking shelter from police. They're denied medical facilities and thrown outside the embassy or the road in case of a critical physical condition and the employers practice slavery by selling them to agencies without taking any permission from the embassy.
 
22 Bangladeshi female migrant workers have died due to rape and other reasons in Saudi Arabia. At least, 1500 female workers have been sent to Bangladesh from safe homes of Jeddah and Riyadh of Saudi Arabia in between May 2015 to May 2018. Most of the returnees have lost their working ability due to physical torture. Moreover, they are being humiliated by their family and society. Socially and economically, they are living in a vulnerable condition.
 
ASK wants to express that, the government has a responsibility to the female migrant workers who have gone overseas for a better life after completing due processes. The government cannot overlook the ongoing incidents of human rights violations of our female migrant workers. The safe and secure migration of these females must be ensured.
 
Recruiting agencies that are enabling this brutality must be punished and their registration must be cancelled. Otherwise, women’s participation in this important sector will decrease significantly. ASK also demands the government to guarantee health care facilities and rehabilitation of these victims along with better diplomatic tactics.