Coronavirus Pandemic: Uncertain Fate of Migrant Workers

Maruf Ul Abed
LL.B (BRAC University)
Sadiul Islam Antor
LL.B (BRAC University)

Both the writer is currently working as Research Assistant at a corporate law chamber situated at Dhaka, Bangladesh.     

Remittance fighters are one of the leading sources for Bangladesh to lifting up the economic conditions. Through their Oversees employment, it has created Bangladesh to live with new hope.  However, illegality is detrimental to the monetary progress from this source and also the reputation of the country. Recently Kuwait has approved a bill to repatriate two lakh Bangladeshi migrant workers[1] which are frustrating for citizens of Bangladesh who are directly and indirectly beneficiaries of incomes of remittance fighter.  Earlier Kuwait has imposed a ban over migrant workers from Bangladesh several times with reasons including irregularity of residency and work permit as reported by Gulf news[2]. Kuwait started hiring employees from Bangladesh since 1976 but unfortunately stopped recruiting after 21 years in 2007 for illegality in the recruitment process[3]. Similar situations are also present in other countries as figured out at different times. I.E- in Saudi Arabia 3 lakh irregular Bangladeshis workers looking forward to the advantage of amnesty as Daily Star reported in 2013[4]. Whether the bill of Kuwait is discriminatory for mentioning the name of Bangladesh? Would illegality in the workplace be the reason for suppressing the migrant workers from getting benefits from overseas employment?

 

The principle of non-discrimination includes ‘nationality’ in international treaties. In The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, 1990, article 1 (1) provides-  The present Convention is applicable, except as otherwise provided hereafter, to all migrant workers and members of their families without distinction of any kind such as sex, race, color, language, religion or conviction, political or other opinions, national, ethnic or social origin, nationality, age, economic position, property, marital status, birth or another status. This article clarified that there shall not have any discrimination based on nationality. However, Kuwait, not being a state party to the 1990 convention, is not bound by the provisions therein. However, as the provision is articulated in an international pact hence this is an internationally recognized fact that no discrimination shall be made based on nationality for migrant workers. Unfortunately, if the migrant workers don’t have the permission of work or residency then they may not be recognized as migrant workers for their illegality. As a consequence, the protection for the migrant workers right under the provisions of international pacts might not be applied to them. Hence the matter of discrimination might not be is in question for the illegality.

 

Due to the ongoing pandemic situation, the Bangladeshi migrants in Kuwait are already in jeopardy.[5] Kuwait’s decision to exclude them would add fuel to the fire. Since the migrant workers for Bangladesh have served a large amount of time, thus it is proved that the necessity of their service is required therein Kuwait. Working abroad from a  country where the job crisis is in the highest stage is a big opportunity for good distribution of manpower and economic growth. However mere legal complexity may ruin this promising sector for Bangladesh.

 

Countries which are not state party to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, 1990, so the fate of the migrant workers from Bangladesh and their families are in the letters of bilateral treaties. Although, Section 25 of the Overseas Employment and Migrants Act, 2013 enunciates that the government may conclude a memorandum of understanding or agreement with another state to ensure the rights of the migrants as well as their families. However, in many cases, it is seen that the migrants, especially in the middle-eastern countries, are leading a low standard of life for years. To mitigate the problem of legalizing migrant workers from Bangladesh in their working and foreign residence, the Overseas Employment and Migrants Act, 2013 may help in the countries which are not state parties of different welfare treaties for international migrant workers.

 

Unawareness of people about employment and migration process or unwillingness of obeying procedure under the Act causing damage to the workers? Moreover, section 19 of the 2013 Act requires all migrant workers to be registered with the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training, who shall preserve their full information. The bureau is responsible for protecting the interest of migrant workers. Every registered worker as such will get a migration clearance card from the bureau bearing necessary information. Therefore, it is evident that the state’s involvement is required in every migration and if so the overpopulation of Bangladeshi migrants in Kuwait is not something to be slipped under the government’s radar. It is whimsical that the number of ‘extra’ workers is not hundreds or thousands but millions. With the current job crisis in Bangladesh, the return of the remittance fighters would not be as welcomed as before.

 

Foreign remittance is one of the cornerstones of the country’s economy, and migrant workers are behind the wheel of it. Manpower transfer without a proper channel puts the fate of the migrant workers and their families in uncertainty. The government should not only monitor the migration process but also calculate the aftermath of their whole period of stay, as well as return, since departure so that incidents like these don’t repeat. Also, treaties between Bangladesh and the receiving states should be formed, or revised if already existed, to ensure their rights in case no effectual international convention protecting the same is available.

 

REFERENCES

[1] Mahmud and Hasan,’ Bangladeshi workers: Around 2 lakh may have to leave kuwait’ The Daily Star (Dhaka, 15th July, 2020) <https://www.thedailystar.net/backpage/news/bangladeshi-workers-around-2-lakh-may-have-leave-kuwait-1930549> Accessed on July 15, 2020

[2] Habib Toumi, ‘Kuwait Reinstate Ban On Bangladeshi Workers- Residency permit irregularities cited as major reason for ban’ Gulf news(Kuwait, 5 march, 2018) accessed on 15th July 2020

[3] UNB Dhaka, ‘Kuwait Reinstate Ban On Bangladeshi Workers’  The Daily Star (Dhaka, 5th march, 2018) < https://www.thedailystar.net/country/kuwait-reinstates-ban-bangladeshi-workers-1543783> accessed on 16 July 15, 2020

[4] Porimol palma, ‘3 lakh Bangladeshi Yet to accept amnesty’ The Daily Star (Dhaka, 28th june, 2013) <https://www.thedailystar.net/news/3-lakh-bangladeshis-yet-to-accept-amnesty> accessed on 16 July 15, 2020

[5] Mahmud and Hasan (n 1)

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