I’m very ordinary man. My ability to protest or point out something that I think is wrong is probably confined within this blog. But still, now technology has given me the opportunity to share my thoughts with the world, and I like to take that advantage. So here I go again! I was reading about Bandar Abdulaziz, a 32 year old man, who was beaten and strangled in a London hotel. Nothing unusual right? Well this man had another identity, the identity that took his life. He was the servant of a Saudi prince- Saud Abdulaziz bin Nasser al Saud. His highness in his great wisdom used to beat his servant for pleasure and prosecutors also found evidence of other pleasure the royal courtier had to provide. One night his highness got so drunk that he beat Mr. Abdulaziz to death. There were CCTV footage of his random assaults on hotel lifts which prosecutors found. I don’t want to go on the Saud prince’s action. If he and his ancestry were so civil then they wouldn’t need so many prophets to save them. My thoughts are with Mr. Abdulaziz and millions like him in the Middle East, domestic servants. Domestic servants and the abuse they face in Middle East is becoming folklores. Some of them are so brutal that sometimes I become skeptic of its truth. The next story was one of them. Until I saw the X-ray images online, I couldn’t believe. A Sri Lankan maid servant was nailed by her employers 42 times in different parts of her body. She had to work with nails in her skull. When she almost died, they terminated her “Akama” or work permit and kicked her out. And some of us believe these butchers will directly go to heaven because….
I looked at the X-ray footage and thought, she’s the Jesus of our time. She endured all these so that her family didn’t have to go through anything like this. The country will shed tears and send millions of saints like her so they can earn a little bit of foreign currency. According to UNHCR there are almost three million domestic workers working in the Middle East at any given moment. Kuwait has the highest population to domestic worker ratio. For 1.3 million citizens there are almost 660,000 migrant workers! But interestingly, none of the countries recognize domestic workers as foreign labors. For that, these workers, of whom majority are women, are not protected by any labor law. I think when they asked what domestic worker means someone gave them a literal translation. It means you can have a domesticated human. Majority of these women are from Sri Lanka, Philippines, Ethiopia, Nepal and increasing number from countries like Bangladesh. Saudi Arabia has almost 1.2 million domestic workers, the highest number in Middle East. Surprisingly even Lebanon has almost two hundred thousand migrant workers. Most of them don’t get paid regularly, no vacation days, can’t go out without employer supervision. It almost seems like a modern day slavery to me. Countries like the Philippines has opened shelters for fleeing workers in many of its embassies. That’s the best they can do, said one human rights activist in a report on Human Rights Watch. It’s a good earning source for semi skilled or unskilled workers. Many of them are young mothers and need to support a family. So they think they can go and work for 2-3 years and make a living for them. Most of them are unaware what kind of abuse awaits. Also recruiters and government officials claim the stories to be over exaggerated to keep the supply chain stable, the report added.
I have seen either on Bangladeshi news channels or sometimes on newspapers about workers send back from Middle East, without pay and sometimes badly beaten. I always wonder what the Government could do. With the highest amount of labor force working in the Middle East and remittance as the second largest source of foreign currency, I guess not much. One of my friend informed me, for all the workers in UAE, there’s only two embassy officers. I think it’s our oasis to these workers to comfort them. I can’t remember but I also read a news on Prothom Alo once that the number of migrant workers returning dead without any autopsy or explanation has also increased (if someone can point to the news, I would be grateful).
This is a civic duty to find alternative markets for our migrant workers. A recent news said Singapore will take 45,000 domestic workers from Bangladesh. They’ll pay higher wages then their Middle Eastern counterparts, and I’m not going to bet my life but I’m pretty sure they are not going to come home with nails in their skull. We should also look for alternative markets in Europe and USA. With an increasing older generation in the west there’s a huge need for care givers in these countries and if we can invest some money in institutions with the assistance of certified institution in government or private sector, then this can be a great source of remittance income for Bangladesh. At least they’ll be protected by law and we won’t leave them in the hand of savages. I know most of our workers are illiterate but I’m sure if we try in private sectors we can find alternative labor markets with better condition or where these workers will be protected by labor laws. But the untapped market in the west can be a great opportunity for many of our semi skilled professionals.
I know even in Bangladesh we have the culture of domestic workers and there are stories of abuse to inhuman level. But think about it, at least most of the domestic workers in your neighborhood has the hope of running away and they know there’s someone out there who will help them. But thousands of miles away, these women go to earn a little more then what they have spent. Hopeless, knowing no one’s out there to help them. The only hope they have is God has given them enough power to take all these and go home alive. A dead body would be just another burden to the family. So next time when our policy makers think of finding job market, can someone please tell them not to count them as dollar signs and look at them as human. And also help these people by giving alternatives in the private sector. I’m sure if we make a coordinated effort in public and private sector, our labor market can become more efficient and spread in new markets. And for those of us who live out of the country, if someone sees one of these saints on the street, at least spare a smile. Who knows, may be that’s the first one they saw for ages.