Immigration experts have called for forming a standing committee in the country's Union Parishads (UP) to assist women workers going abroad.
The aspirant women migrants should be made more skilful according to their qualifications and their safety abroad should also be ensured, speakers said in a media briefing on "Women Migrant Workers' Rights: Empowerment of Returnee Women Migrants" at the National Press Club on Tuesday.
At the event, organised by the Centre for Women and Children Studies (CWCS), supported by Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) and funded by Global Affairs Canada, Prof Ishrat Shamim, president of CWCS, said, "There is no committee in the Union Parishad to discuss the challenges of migrant workers. Such committee can discuss and solve various problems."
"It can work to create awareness in the locality and also help women who are returning from abroad after being subjected to various abuses," she said.
Ishrat Sharmim said the local government should be strengthened further to ensure that people can easily get information about migration.
"Women workers who go abroad should leave copies of necessary documents with their families so that they can be helped easily in times of peril," she said.
In Nawabganj and Keraniganj Upazilas, the CWCS has worked on the project "Women's Voice and Leadership-Bangladesh (WVLB)" to empower women migrants who have returned home.
Responding to a journalist's query, CWCS Program Coordinator Mariam Prama said, "While working with the project at the Upazila level, we found that people in the local government know little about immigrants and migration. They need awareness in this regard."
Mohammad Ikram Hossin, the country coordinator at International Center for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), said the Union Digital Centres should be empowered further as everyone can't come to Dhaka for information.
CWCS Executive Member Rita Bhowmick presented the keynote paper.
Rita said that many Bangladeshi women have been victims of sexual, physical and mental abuse while working as maids in foreign countries.
Citing Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) data, Rita Bhowmick said around 10.5 lakh women have migrated from 1991 to May 2022.
"According to Wage Earners' Welfare Board sources, 4.8 lakh expatriate workers returned to the country in 2020, and 49,000 of the returnees were women workers. Most of them were forced to return to the country after losing their jobs or being detained by the police," Rita added.
During the event, two women who returned home highlighted the issue of going abroad through middlemen. They said that the agents did not pay them the salaries they were promised.
Bebi Akhtar of Keraniganj said, "I paid Tk40,000 to an agent for a housemaid job in Saudi Arabia. I went to my workplace in March last year. My employer did not give me food and used to beat me up. I was even locked in the bathroom for three days."
"Unable to bear the torture, I ran away and came to the Bangladesh embassy just after three months. I returned home later with the help of the embassy," the victim added.