Bangladeshi workers were being sent to Somalia, an African country beset with hunger and poverty, with immigration clearance from the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training.
According to BMET immigration clearance documents, at least 52 workers have been sent to Somalia since August, monthly 15 workers on average.
New Age collected BMET data of three and half months. It is true that actual number of Somalia bound workers will be far more if BMET data of the previous months are taken into account.
Migration experts and migrant rights campaigners, however, raised grave concerns over migration of Bangladeshi workers to Somalia fearing that those workers were being trafficked.
When asked about job opportunities in Somalia, BMET director general Salim Reza said that he was not aware of sending workers to Somalia.
‘I have to look into the official documents to say how many workers have gone to which country,’ he said.
BMET director for immigration and protocol Atiqur Rahman said that in the past workers might have gone there but recently no workers were sent to Somalia.
However, daily BMET immigration clearance certificates show that 17 workers got BMET clearance for Somalia in August while seven workers in September, 15 workers in October and 13 workers up to November 20 of the current year.
BMET officials preferring anonymity said that workers were sent to Somalia and other poor African countries on temporary job visas or fake job visas by recruiting agencies with motives to get them trafficked.
When sought his comment, chairman of the Parliamentarians’ Caucus on Migration and Development Md Israfil Alam MP said that Bangladeshi workers sent to Somalia would certainly fall prey to the traffickers.
‘There is scarcity of food in Somalia, which is also a country of AIDS prevalence,’ he said, adding that there was no reason to send Bangladeshi workers to Somalia anyhow.
Dhaka University Professor and Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit founding chair Tasneem Siddiqui said that the government should immediately investigate into labour migration to Somalia which was not a destination country for Bangladeshi workers.
‘On which basis the workers are being sent to Somalia should be investigated. Otherwise, migrant workers can be victims of illegal trafficking,’ she said.
Migrants’ rights campaigners and Film4Peace Foundation chairman Pervez Siddiqui said that Somalia as a country has been poorer than Bangladesh. ‘How can Bangladeshi workers be allowed by government to go there?’ he asked.
‘There are some examples that workers landing in Sudan and Libya are being trafficked to Europe,’ he said.
Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Programme chairman Shakirul Islam expressed his worries, saying that the government should not allow migrant workers to go to poverty hit Somalia, a transit route of trafficking.
‘Without scrutinizing the job documents and inking any bilateral agreement, the migrant workers should not be sent to Somalia,’ he said.