International Migrant Workers Rights Day is globally observed on 18 December. Migration is an impactful term drawing increasing attention across the world. Protecting the rights of migrant workers ultimately benefits the state itself. A total number of 7.5 million Bangladeshis are living abroad as migrant workers. The country has ranked sixth among top 20 countries of origin for international migrants.
It has been found by studies that more than 500,000 migrant workers had returned from abroad between 2006 and 2011 , a time period in which 3.5 million had left the nation. In 2014, 426,000 people migrated to work in another country – most often on temporary labor contracts. The number clearly depicts how our migrant workers are working relentlessly to add to our economy. Our GDP is increasing day by day and one of the significant reasons behind this is the remittance. But we are not able to provide them protected rights yet.
According to a report of International Organisation on Migration on returning migrants in 12 districts of Bangladesh, approximately 70% of surveyed migrants who returned from abroad between February and June 2020, are still unemployed. A total number of 29% of respondents indicated they had returned to Bangladesh because they were asked to leave the country they were in, and 23% reported that they were worried about COVID-19 and wished to return to their families. Moreover, 26% of respondents reported that they had returned because their families had asked them to return home for the reason of safety issues, and 9% returned because they were told that the borders were going to be closed and they were worried that they would be left stranded.
Recently, 81 Bangladeshi migrant workers in Vietnam have been detained. In Vietnam, they were detained for anti-state activities. Such detention is violative of article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
The migrant workers expulsion without any prior notification is also violative of multiple international instruments. Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ensured the rights of the migrant workers. Part III of the International Conventions on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers has ensured the human rights of the migrant workers within its article 8 to article 35. Other legal rights have been protected by article 36 to article 56 of the said convention.
Article 54 of the convention defines equal treatment to the migrant workers which is also interrelated with article 25 and 27 in case of protection against dismissal, unemployment benefits, access to public work schemes intended to combat unemployment, access to alternative employment in the event of loss of work or termination of other remunerated activity. There are also many news of the death of the migrant workers during working in the workplace. Article 9 of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers protects the right to life.
For the protection of rights of migrant workers, Bangladesh has enacted The Overseas Employment and Migration Act, 2013, Recruiting Agency License & Conduct Rule 2002, Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Policy 2016, Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Rules 2017, Expatriate Welfare Board Act 2017, and also established the Migrants Welfare Bank (PKB) for the benefit of migrant workers. But the condition of the migrant workers has not improved much. The Covid-19 pandemic has left them more helpless than ever.
Bangladesh needs to take proper steps to raise awareness among the people so that they might not be cheated by fraudulent and exploitative recruitment agents. Proper training is also very important for the migrant worker so that they can increase their skills. The brokers who deceive vulnerable people looking for employment must be brought before the law. People who want to migrate must register themselves as migrant workers through authorised digital centers. The widespread practice of international conventions and laws to protect the rights of the migrant workers must be ensured. There should be the implementation of Migration Act, 2013 and other bilateral agreements in our country to protect the rights of the migrant workers.
Afterward, it is to be noted that there are many laws to protect the rights of the migrant workers; we only need to ensure the implementation of the laws. Implementing the laws might be the best way to protect the rights of a migrant worker.
Writer: Mahbub Alam Khan, The writer is a student of law at Daffodil International University.