Turag Police Station arrested 81 Vietnam-returnee migrant workers and presented them to the court on Tuesday. They are among 106 Vietnam-returnees who were under a 14-day quarantine in Uttara after they returned from Vietnam on August 18 at the state's initiative. The other 25 have been released.
"We have arrested only those who have a criminal history, and the others have been released," said Nurul Mottakin, officer-in-charge of Turag Police Station.
Mohammad Mahabubul Islam, jailor, Dhaka Central Jail, Keraniganj, confirmed that 81 returnees have been sent to the central jail.
After being arrested under section 54 of the Code of Criminal Procedure's (CrPC), they were sent to the court. Anwarul Islam, sub-inspector of Turag Police Station and the investigation officer appealed to the court to detain the returnees until the investigation is completed. The court granted the appeal.
"The returnees have destroyed the image of Bangladesh abroad, which has negatively impacted the labour market. They were detained there for their involvement in different crimes. They have been released on special consideration due to Covid-19," the investigation officer mentioned in his application to the court.
However, many returnees have claimed they were not detained by police in Vietnam.
Shariful Hasan, head of Brac Migration Programme, said, "Turag Police have arrested those who protested before the Bangladesh Embassy in Hanoi demanding their safe return to home at the state's expense. We talked to many of them who said they had not been arrested there."
Demanding the release of other detained returnees, Alamgir Hasan, 21, of Shariatpur, who has been released, said, "We were released because we did not take part in any protest in Vietnam. We followed the embassy guidelines."
Alamgir Hasan went to Vietnam on February 9 this year, with the help of local middle man Motiar, through a recruiting agency named MRT International, with an assurance of having a work permit.
However, very soon he realised he had business visas with a three-month validity. Moreover, the middlemen in Vietnam confiscated his passport and clearance card.
"The local middleman told me that I would get a job as an electrician, but when I got there, I did not get such a job. I just worked for a few days on a construction site. I spent Tk4.5 lakh to go there but I did not get any salary. Even my family had to send me Tk1,5000 for my daily expenditures in Vietnam," said Alamgir.
Like Alamgir, hundreds of Bangladeshis claimed that they were not given the proper jobs and salaries in Vietnam as promised by the agents in recent months. They went there with the immigration clearance card of the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), the regulatory authority of manpower recruiting agencies.
The victims alleged that although they had worked in different places for some time, they did not get any salaries. Some of the workers even faced physical abuse.
Under the circumstances, these Bangladeshis wanted to return home. Many of them protested in front of the Bangladesh embassy in Vietnam.
The embassy has arranged the repatriation process with the help of foreign ministry and expatriate welfare and overseas employment ministry.
Around 1,174 Bangladeshis went there via the same process from January last year to March this year, according to an estimation of the BMET. BMET has identified the recruiting agencies who sent these migrant workers to Vietnam.
Meanwhile, Turag Police Station have arrested two other migrant returnees from Qatar.
Recently, 255 Bangladeshi migrant labourers were put on two-week mandatory quarantine at Diabari, Uttara upon their return, and then they were arrested and sent to Kashimpur jail.
Most of these deported Bangladeshi migrant workers were previously arrested in Qatar, Kuwait, or Bahrain for: committing administrative infractions–such as overstaying a visa or work permit expiry, petty narcotics charges, consumption of alcohol, and other petty crimes such as robbing a tire or selling cell phone talk time.
Various rights bodies have urged the government to release 255 returnee migrant workers who are in jail on charges of "suspicious activities."