Karina Begum from Sherpur went to Saudi Arabia as a domestic worker two years ago. Her employer agreed to give her 1,000 Saudi Riyals (around Tk22,500) per month as salary.
However, she received no money for months and returned home empty-handed in August this year.
Karina's story is typical of 74% of migrant workers who returned to Bangladesh amid the Covid-19 pandemic without any money, according a survey by Bangladesh Civil Society for Migration, a network of 16 organisations working for expatriate workers.
The findings of the survey were revealed at a press conference organised by Bangladeshi Obhibashi Mohila Sramik Association (Bomsa), a member of the network, at Dhaka Reporters Unity on Saturday.
According to the survey, 61% of the families of migrant workers received no remittances amid the pandemic.
At the press conference, Karina said, "I had to work there day and night. They beat me up whenever I made a mistake. They did not even pay me any salary after I had worked so hard."
"I will not go abroad again. I did not get any money. I had to come back amid the pandemic empty-handed," said Karina, who returned through the assistance of the Bangladesh embassy in Saudi Arabia in cooperation with the Saudi police.
At the event, Farida Yasmin, director (programme) of Bomsa, said, "Around 3.27 lakh migrant workers have returned from different countries to Bangladesh from April to November this year. Most of them were from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates."
"The number of oppressed Bangladeshi workers abroad is very low compared to the total number of migrant workers from our country. Still we do not want any of our workers to be tormented. We receive complaints that the workers are sometimes tortured physically and mentally," said Farida.
Hazera Begum from Noakhali is another worker who returned home from Saudi Arabia in November.
She said, "I sent home the 1,000 Riyals I received as salary every month. My employer gave me no money when I was coming back; they only bought me a return ticket."
"I had to bear an inhumane workload. I started working from 4am. They did not take me to the doctors when I fell ill. In spite of all these, I will go abroad again to earn a livelihood," said Hazera.
Advocate Jannatun Nesa, a speaker at the event, said before returning to the country many workers declare in writing that they have received all their due salaries, because without furnishing such statements they will not be allowed to return. This makes it difficult to collect their due salaries later.
Abul Hossain, president of Bangladesh Obhibashi Sramik Forum, Bomsa General Secretary Sheikh Rumana and Chairman Lily Jahan also spoke on the occasion.