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Bangladesh Targets Unscrupulous Middlemen

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Debt BondageHuman TraffickingLaw & Policy

Bangladesh is planning to crack down an exploitative recruitment agencies by compiling a list of certified agents.

Migrant workers often pay thousands of dollars in recruitment fees to brokers to find work abroad, but many struggle to pay off the debt or placed in abusive working environments when they arrive at their destination.

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The Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment (EWOE) says their plan could help lower recruitment fees and in turn curb the abuse and trafficking of Bangladeshi migrant workers.

Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:

“The plan is to ask the recruiting agencies to provide us with the details of the brokers who are unofficially working for them,” said Raunaq Jahan, a senior civil servant with the EWOE.

“After that we will spread these names and make people aware of the certified brokers,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “This move can prevent human trafficking.”

The vast majority of Bangladesh’s migrants depend on brokers to find work overseas, and about half experience some form of fraud or harassment, according to the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) – a migrant rights organisation.

About 3,800 Bangladeshis died while working abroad last year – the highest annual toll since 2005 – raising concerns among campaigners about the poor treatment of many migrant workers.

Shakirul Islam, chairman of Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program (OKUP), a migrants rights organization, pointed out that Bangladesh already has 1,200 licensed recruitment agencies, but they are largely in cities and out of reach for most of the rural population.

“That’s why the job seekers are dependent on the middlemen to reach these agencies and go abroad,” he said. “At the same time, the agencies, which lack the capacity, also depend upon the informal networks.”

Yet the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies is hitting back at the plan, saying regulating middlemen would not improve anything.

“If you want to reduce the migration fee, you can’t add more stakeholders to the system,” said its secretary general Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman. “Who is going to pay the brokers when they become official?”

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