BOMSA Hosted National Dialogue Call to Protect Women Migrants by Law

Bangladeshi Ovibashi Mohila Sramik Association (BOMSA) on Tuesday organized national dialogue on “Ensuring Effective Protection of Women Migrant Workers of Bangladesh under Overseas Employment and Migrants Act 2013,”

Civil society leaders, academics, lawyers, members of parliamentarians’ caucus on migration and development and senior government officials joined the online BOMSA dialogue.

Speakers at the national dialogue emphasized the need for bolstering protection of the migrant workers, especially women migrants who were facing problems at home and abroad.

They suggested the government to immediately take necessary steps to remove shortcomings and loopholes of the Overseas Employment and Migrants Act which was enacted by the parliament in 2013.

The migrants’ rights activists said that the migrant act put recruiting agents under obligation to discharge certain duties and responsibilities as a representative of employer. “This ignores any contract between the migrant workers and recruiting agencies.”

They also said that there should have been a clear provision for providing legal aid through the government legal aid act, 2000 without any cost. Because most of the migrants are poor and helpless specially the women migrant workers.

Global migration expert and Dhaka University Professor of International Relations Dr CR Abrar moderated the virtual dialogue and called to protect the migrant workers who are in crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Parliamentarians’ Caucus chairman Barrister Shamim Haider Patwary who attended the meeting as chief guest mentioned contribution of migrant workers to the country’s development.

Supreme Court lawyer and BOMSA director (Program) Farida Yeasmin in her presentation said that Overseas Employment and Migrants Act was short of incorporating the provisions facilitating rescue of migrant victims, witness protection, joint or mutual legal assistance, cross-country collaboration, extrajudicial powers of the Courts, admissibility of electronic proof and evidence, camera in trial etc.

However, penalties for the other violations (physical, sexual and psychological violence) committed by agents are relatively silent in OEMA 2013.

“The law does not establish a general right to redress if a worker’s contractual rights are violated.”

The act should have to point out the roles of the sub-agents of the recruiters even if they are major suppliers of migrant workers.

About the loopholes, the senior lawyer said that the Act did not specify the basis of calculation of compensation or the criteria of compensation. “The law didn’t specify how to address compensation claims for more serious abuse and exploitation at the hands of agents, recruitment agencies or employers.”

WARBE Development Foundation chairman Syed Saiful Haque, BAIRA secretary general Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry’s joint secretary Nasreen Jahan, Wage Earners' Welfare Board director Shoaib Khan, BOAF Chairman Nazmul Ahsan, Film4peace foundation chairman Pervez Siddiqui, British Council’s Prokas Programme’s Shirin Lira, University professor Israt Shameem, independent expert Asif Munier and BOMSA general secretary Sheikh Rumana, among others, also spoke at the meeting.

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