Bangladesh Civil Society for Migrants (BCSM), a civil society network of organizations working on migration, Thursday expressed its deep concern over the arrest of 81 Bangladeshis returnee migrants from Vietnam.
Describing such arrests on unfounded allegations as violation of human rights, BCSM demanded immediate release of these migrants including the migrant workers arrested earlier, according to a press.
The call was made in a joint statement on Thursday. In the statement they said, it is surprising that migrants who returned to the country after being exploited was thrown into jail whereas the perpetrators either remain scot-free or face little action.
On September 01, a total of 83, including two from Qatar, were sent to jail on the ground that “they have tarnished the image of Bangladesh abroad.”
Surprisingly, the same allegations were made earlier when 219 migrant workers from Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain were jailed. The allegations noted that while they were at the quarantine center in Diabari, they used to hold consultations in group with the intention of being involved in “anti-government and anti-state activities”. They were arrested under Section 54.
Even the allegations they were in Vietnam jail is completely fictitious. They went to the Bangladesh embassy in Vietnam to register complaint against the traffickers.
According to media reports and the families of the detainees, 11 Bangladeshis returned to Dhaka on July 03 this year from Vietnam. After that, it was found that there are 27 more Bangladeshis who had gone to the embassy with the allegations that they did not get the promised job and were being exploited. Gradually, the number exceeded one hundred.
The migrants told the embassy that a few recruiting agencies took BDT 4 lakhs to 5 lakhs from each person alluring them with better employment. They were then sent to Vietnam at different times at the end of 2019 and in the first few months of 2020 with BMET clearance. But they were not assigned proper work there. Rather, they were subjected to torture. In such situation, they approached at the embassy and lodged a written complaint to save their lives and return to the country.
According to the Overseas Employment and Migrants Act 2013, if a migrant faces problem abroad he will go to the embassy. However, due to repeated reports in the media and the steadfast position of these migrants’, they were returned to Bangladesh from Vietnam on August 16. After returning to Dhaka on a special flight, they were interrogated and then taken to the quarantine center in Diabari. After 14 days when they were hoping to meet with their families, they were sent to jail. We demand an impartial investigation into this incident. All concerned persons and organizations including sub-agents, licensed recruiting agents and others must be brought under investigation. We urge to the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for taking immediate measures in this regard.
Earlier, 219 among 255 migrant returnees from the Middle East were also sent to jail and have not yet been granted bail. In this case as well there is no evidence that any of them have committed any crime in Bangladesh. Instead, they returned to the country after being pardoned of their terms of conviction on petty crimes such as staying extra days at destination countries and selling talk time on phone.
In this context, we, the Bangladesh Civil Society for Migrants (BCSM), demand the immediate and unconditional release of all the incarcerated returnee migrants and call for an end to such arrests and harassment.
This joint statement is being made by Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), WARBE Development Foundation (WARBE DF), BRAC, Ain o Salish Kendra, (ASK), Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), Bangladeshi Ovhibashi Mohila Sramik Association (BOMSA),BASUG, Obhibashi Karmi Unnayan Program (OKUP), Human Rights Support Society (HRSS), IMA Research Foundation, International Network of Alternative Financial Institutions (INAFI) Bangladesh, Bangladesh Construction and Wood Workers Federation (BCWWF), Young Power in Social Action (YPSA), Bangladesh Ovibashi Adhikar Forum (BOAF), BASTOB, Rights Jessore, Center for Development Communications DEVCOM Ltd, Films 4 Peace Foundation and Change Makers.