Bangladesh initiates common stance on migrant workers’ rights

Dhaka, Oct 21, 2010 (Calcutta Tube) Bangladesh is reaching out to nations, including India, which export labour to the Gulf region and southeast Asia, to evolve a common stance on migrant workers’ rights.

The initiative comes ahead of a meeting of the Colombo Process, an alliance of 11 Asian labour exporters, which launched its journey in 2003. Its theme is ‘Migration with Dignity’.

Currently chairing the Colombo Process, Dhaka is to hold bilateral dialogues with each of the participants before hosting the fourth ministerial conference in April next year, Minister for Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Khandker Mosharraf Hossain said.

Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam are the members of the Colombo Process.

Nine labour importers — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Malaysia and Singapore — will be invited as observers, the minister told The Daily Star.

The process aims at facilitating dialogues among the member states and the labour importing countries to strengthen migration management both in the Asian region and in the labour markets.

‘We found our workers bearing exorbitant costs to go abroad for jobs. In the bilateral meetings, we will discuss how the costs can be reduced. We will also see if we can set a minimum wage ceiling for the Asian migrants,’ Hossain said.

‘We will learn from each other and then try to have a common stance on certain issues necessary to protect our workers’ rights abroad.’

An estimated seven million Bangladeshis now work abroad, and most of them are in the Middle East, Malaysia and Singapore. They send home over $10 billion a year, which remains a vital source of income for the country.

According to estimates, more than 2.5 million Asian workers leave their countries every year under contracts to work abroad.

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