At least 3793 Bangladeshi migrant workers have died abroad in 2018 mostly due to stroke or heart attack marking the highest record of deaths of migrants since 2005.
In the last year, according to Wage Earners Welfare Board, at least 3353 migrants’ bodies were repatriated through Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka while 374 bodies in Shah Amanat International Airport in Chattagrum and 66 bodies in Osmani International Airport in Sylhet.
At least 3,387 bodies of migrant workers arrived in 2017 while 3481 bodies in 2016.
WEWB deputy director Zahid Anwar said that the number of deaths was very few in terms of overseas migration from Bangladesh each year.
He also said that the WEWB received the bodies of both documented and undocumented Bangladeshi migrant workers. If documented numbers were taken into account, the number would decrease, he added.
Bangladesh Diaspora in Netherlands BASUG has expressed deep concern at the sudden and unnatural deaths of huge number of Bangladeshi migrant workers abroad each year, especially in the Middle Eastern countries and Malaysia.
BASUG chairman Bikash Chowdhury Barua in email message said that ‘We don’t agree with WEWB when they claim that ’the number of deaths was very few in terms of overseas migration from Bangladesh each yea. If the deaths are natural there is no reason to express concern. But we have to see the age group of the migrant workers who die abroad.’
He said that there were a number of reasons behind this alarming rate of death, which were in most cases unnatural including accidents at work place. It is a fact that in most cases the migrant workers work in an unsafe working environment with minimum safety measures for them in case of any accident. On the other hand, many of them work under stress, mental depression and ill-health.
‘ They live also in an inhuman condition. When a person is not sound both physically and mentally it is difficult for one to concentrate at work and in case of the Bangladeshi migrant workers they work in an unfriendly and unsecured working condition.’
BASUG said that it was the responsibility of the government to ensure that Bangladeshi migrant workers work in a safe working environment abroad. ‘There should have some monitoring arrangement to ensure this. We also demand execution of post-mortem of the bodies of the migrant workers on arrival in Bangladesh to find out the exact causes of the death. Only then all doubts shrouding their deaths could be removed. ‘
Migrant rights campaigners in Bangladesh also expressed deep concern over the death of so many young workers abroad.
The burden of debt caused by the high cost of migration, they said, played a big role in causing deaths to a growing number of migrant workers at the prime of their lives.
The workers were in the 25-35 age group when they died unable to cope with physical and mental stresses caused by their inability to repay their loans, back home, with low wages, they observed.
Unfriendly workplace atmosphere also played a role in their early deaths, they said.
Migrants’ rights activist Faruque Ahmed, also the WARBE Development Foundation secretary general, called these deaths as worrisome.
Faruque, who once worked in Saudi Arabia, said that migrant workers were forced to live in the bellow standard accommodations in the country of destinations.
‘Welfare activities to the migrant workers are very limited,’ he added.
Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program chairman Shakirul Islam said that high cost of migration; poor living condition and bad working atmosphere were responsible to cause untimely death of the country’s migrant workers.
He urged the government to reexamine the cause of death through postmortem in Bangladesh after arrival of the dead bodies.
Referring to OKUP study findings, Shakirul said that 25 per cent children of the deceased migrant workers dropped education after death of their parents.