The number of death of expatriate female domestic helps in Middle Eastern countries is increasing alarmingly, creating great concern over their workplace condition. Questions is being raised from different strata of society about where we are sending our female citizens to earn some money.
It has been learnt that on every three day, on an average, one coffin carrying the body of such a female housemaid reaches Shahjalal International Airport, informed sources concerned. Md Shariful Islam, Head of Programme of Migration section at BRAC, told Bangladesh Post on Monday, “In last 10 months, bodies of 121 female domestic aid had been sent back to the country from abroad.”
On condition of anonymity, an official of the expatriates’ welfare desk at the Shahjalal International Airport, told Bangladesh Post: “Around 210 expatriate female domestic helps died in last three years, from 2016 to 2018.” In total, 331 female expatriate house cleaners became victim of workplace death in three years and 10 months.
Due to various reasons, almost all these migrant workers died in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Jordan Qatar and Lebanon, said expatriate welfare desk sources.
Brac migration section’s Shariful Islam said out of the 60 deaths during the first six months of the current year, 26 died in Saudi Arabia, nine in Jordan, nine in Lebanon, four in UAE, three in Oman and nine from other different countries.
“Of them, 17 committed suicide, 20 died of stroke, 10 in accidents, five due to natural deaths and the rest eight due to various other reasons,” he said, adding that in Saudi Arabia alone, 10 domestic helps committed suicide failing to cope with the workplace situation.
Observing that the total number of female domestic helps’ death in different Middle Eastern countries is increasing year by year, Shariful said, “In 2016, it was 57, but in 2017 it almost doubled to 102. In 2018, the number of death increased to 110.”
“Saudi Arabia sent back the highest number of bodies in these three years which is 112 while UAE sent 26 bodies, Oman sent 34, Lebanon 42 and Jordan 62 during the same period of time,” he added.
Informing that around 40,000 migrant workers’ bodies have reached the country in last 14 years, Shariful said, “Of them, over 60pc died in the Middle East with Saudi Arab having the lion’s share of 31pc.” “There is no research, neither in private nor in public sector, over this long unending procession of death which is getting lengthier every year,” he lamented.
Migration expert Asif Munir told Bangladesh Post: “Our female workers face various types of unwanted problems in abroad, especially in the Middle East; but neither the recruiting agencies nor the government bodies make the migrant workers aware of the issues prior to going abroad.”
“Some corrupt agency and health officials also contribute to their misery. They provide medical certificates to workers hiding physical shortcomings in exchange of money. As a result, the workers after joining their jobs cannot cope with the situation due to heavy workloads,” he added.
In response to a query over why the death rate of domestic helps is so high in Saudi Arabia, the migrant expert said, “The Saudis are rich but in comparison to the developed nations of the world, they are not civilised at all. They treat the domestic helps as slaves. The recruiting agencies are also responsible for the misfortunes of the migrant workers.”
Commenting on possible solution, Asif Munir Monday told Bangladesh Post: “Those responsible for sending unfit workers abroad must be bring under accountability. Day by day, the situation is becoming unbearable. The government should also ensure accountability of different envoys over what is being done to our citizens in their countries.”
Shakirul Islam, chairman of Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Programme (OKUP), a community based migrants organisation, said, “Most of the migrant female workers go abroad using borrowed money. But they find a huge gap between their expectation and the amount of salary they get. Falling into the situation, they suffer from an acute mental pressure which is also responsible behind their untimely unexpected deaths.
Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit Chairperson Professor Tasnim Siddiqui said we have to understand that when a person commits suicide, it is because they cannot bear the repression anymore.
“All the migrant workers go abroad with a dream, nobody goes to commit suicide,” she observed, demanding that officials of our missions abroad should regularly inquire about the working condition of our migrant workers going to their workplaces.