South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

After three years of restriction, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has decided to open its door for Bangladesh to hire four categories of workers — housemaids, house drivers, security guards and gardeners.

The Saudi employers will bear all cost to hire housemaids whose minimum monthly salary would be equivalent to Tk 12,000, but migration cost for other categories has not been fixed yet.

“The decision of recruitment will be effective within next two months,” Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain told reporters.

Earlier, he held a meeting with a nine-member delegation of Saudi Arabian National Recruitment Committee (Sanarcom) at his office.

Those wishing to go to Saudi Arabia have to be within the age group of 25-35.

Sanarcom, the trade body of the Saudi recruitment agencies, also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with its Bangladeshi counterpart Baira, pledging to cooperate with each other in protecting the migrants’ interest.

“The Kingdom could recruit around 10,000 workers a month,” the minister said, adding that they however have to go through orientation on Saudi laws and expertise on the jobs they would do.

Saudi Arabia, where around 20 lakh Bangladeshis work, banned hiring the four-category workers from Bangladesh in early 2008. The Saudi authorities had said the ban was under a policy that, among other objectives, aimed to strike a balance among various nationalities working in the Kingdom.

Since then labour recruitment in the Arab country declined. It recruited 2.04 lakh Bangladeshis in 2007, but the number came down to 1.32 lakh in 2008, 14,666 in 2009 and only some 7,000 in 2010.

The issue, however, was not officially informed to the Bangladesh government generating speculations over its reasons with some saying there were political reasons behind the ban.

Some said malpractices in the recruitment process were so rampant that the Saudi society spoke against hiring Bangladeshis, while some others said some neighbouring countries conspired against Bangladeshi workers.

Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said the government has already started registering the female workers aspiring to go to the Kingdom. They all would be trained at the government training centres as required by the Saudi government.

Asked how the female domestic workers will be protected from abuses as cases were earlier reported, Sanarcom Chairman Saad Nahar Al-Baddah, after signing the MoU with Baira, told the reporters, “Islamic laws will protect them.”

Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira) Secretary Ali Haider Chowdhury said as per the MoU, if the employers deprive the workers or violate the contracts, Sanarcom would look into the matter.

“The same way if Bangladeshi recruiting agencies violate contracts with the Saudi agencies or do not supply the right workers, Baira will take actions against the agencies,” he said, terming the MoU “historic”.

Both the associations pledged in the MoU to cooperate with each other in cutting migration cost and avoiding the manpower brokers, Haider said.

Baira President Abul Bashar said Baira and Sanarcom would form a joint committee with seven members from each association to address any problems arising anytime about labour recruitment.

Source: The Daily Star – 06.04.2010