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7 Jul 2024

New Age (Bangladesh)

Bangladesh: Govt. reportedly failing to ensure investigation & repatriation amid rising death rate of migrant workers abroad

"Death of migrant workers must be investigated,"

The plights of exploited migrant workers have fallen on deaf ears of successive governments as the number of death in destination countries continues to increase. The Wage Earners and Welfare Board says that a least 4,261 Bangladeshis died abroad in July 2023–June 2024. Official statistics also report a staggering 41,053 death in 2002–2021. A WEWB official says that 68 per cent of the death are ‘unnatural.’ Authorities in destination countries, however, mostly categorise such death as ‘natural’ or ‘not work-related’, but they so do without post-mortem examinations... many migrants who returned have listed strenuous, exploitative working conditions as hidden causes of such death. Families of the workers say that they not only suffer the loss of a young earning member but also endure long, agonising wait for the bodies and making compensation claims...

WEWB officials insist that respective missions provide shelter for workers in crisis and assist them with health care and legal aid but pass the responsibility on to workers when they say that only increased awareness among workers could rectify the situation. That families of the deceased struggle to repatriate the body contradicts the government’s claim... The expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment ministry fail to control the recruitment cost and eliminate exploitative intermediaries. In most destination countries, Bangladesh does not have an effective labour wing to provide legal and social support for aggrieved workers...

The government must, therefore, initiate a process of conducting post-mortem examinations of repatriated deceased workers, identify the reasons for the death and, in the case of workplace death, initiate diplomatic dialogues with the destination countries to hold negligent employers to justice and ensure compensation for workers...