• Privilege withdrawn in 2012 as workers violated conditions
• Workers stay for 6-9 months under the programme to work in agriculture farm
• Italy to recruit 18,000 workers from 30 countries this season
• No specific quota of workers set for Bangladesh
• Middlemen luring aspirants to Italy on Tk10-12 lakh
• Govt warns aspirants against intermediaries
Italy has reopened doors for farm workers from Bangladesh after 8 years of closure, yet worries over higher migration costs remain as it is yet to remove middlemen from the labour export process.
A group of brokers have already been active to tempt migration aspirants to Italy under its farm workers programme (seasonal and non-seasonal), sources said.
Allegations run rife that manpower recruiting agencies are illegally taking Tk10-12 lakh from each interested person for sending them to Italy, said officials of the expatriate welfare and overseas employment ministry.
Now, the ministry is working to send workers under the government arrangement so that the aspirants do not get entrapped by middlemen or recruiting agencies, they also said.
The Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment has warned expatriate workers and all others concerned not to engage in any illegal or irregular financial transactions with brokers or intermediaries regarding worker recruitment in Italy, read a press release on Wednesday.
Under the farm workers programme, a worker has to stay for 6-9 months in Italy during a season to work in an agriculture farm and then is bound to get back home country.
But, Bangladeshi farm workers violated conditions of this programme by not returning home after each season, prompting Italy to strip Bangladesh of this privilege in 2012.
Allegedly, the workers did not return as they, in so short a period, could not earn sufficient compared to how much they had paid to the recruiting agencies.
"If a worker goes through a recruiting agency, they cannot bear the migration costs during the limited stay in Italy. So, they tend to become undocumented and linger their presence in the country," said Sarwat Binte Islam, coordinator of Manusher Jonno Foundation.
On 12 October last, the Italy government cleared the way to Italy for workers of Bangladesh by enlisting it, along with several others, on the Flussi Decree – a law that decides how many people can enter Italy annually.
Now, stakeholders fear that workers may violate the rules again if they migrate on huge expenditures, causing Bangladesh to lose the market again.
Md Arfanul Haque, first secretary of Bangladesh embassy in Rome, told The Business Standard that Italy will recruit 18,000 workers from 30 countries in the current season under the programme. But, there is no specific quota for a country.
Employers have already started applying to the Italian authority over how many workers they need. The deadline for the application submission is 31 December. But it is not clear how the farm owners are collecting workers, he added.
"However, we have requested some important employers to deal with us about collecting workers from Bangladesh. But we have not got any response yet," he said.
He feared intermediaries may grasp the situation as an opportunity.
Under the programme, workers mainly work in the field level to cultivate vegetables, fruits, crops etc, he mentioned.
A person working in gardening, farming and fishing in Italy usually earns around 2,200 euros per month. Salaries range from minimum 920 euros to maximum 5,430 euros, he added.
Md Saiful Hassan Badal, managing director of state-owned recruiting agency Bangladesh Overseas Employment and Services Limited (BOESL), said, "We heard recruiting agencies are proposing people to go to Italy under this programme against Tk10-12 lakh. But the government is conducting the whole process this year."
However, Shamim Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, secretary general of Bangladesh International Recruiting Agencies, said, "We do not know which recruiting agency is involved in such unauthorised activities. But, any worker should not pay a single penny to any recruiting agency."
Earlier, Italy declared inclusion of Bangladesh in the programme this year responding to a request from Dhaka.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina requested her Italian counterpart in this regard when they met in Rome this year, said Foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen recently.
Honouring her request, the Italian government granted this opportunity to Bangladeshi nationals, said he.
Around 2 lakh Bangladeshi are already working in Italy, according to an unofficial estimate.
Here's how workers can go to Italy
The expatriate welfare and overseas employment ministry has issued some directives for Italy-bound aspirant workers.
First, the employer/owner in Italy will have to apply, from his/her designated email address, for a no-objection certificate (NOC) to the local DC office (Prefettura) by mentioning the name and passport number of the person he/she wants to hire.
After an NOC is issued in consideration of the income of the employer/owner and of other factors, he/she will have to send it to the aspirant person in Bangladesh.
The aspirant then will have to apply for a visa at the Italian embassy, attaching the NOC to it.
Afterwards, the worker, arriving in Italy with a visa, will have to go to the local DC office with the employer/owner and sign an employment contract.
At the time of application submission in this process, the aspirants will need to pay 16 euros for the government-prescribed revenue stamp.
Those who will rely on the help desk for the application submission may have to pay an extra fee of up to 50-100 euros.
There is no other cost in submitting the application. The relevant authorities will sort applications received by 31 December 2020 and select the eligible ones. Separate NOCs (Nulla Osta) will then be issued in favour of eligible applicants.
Upon receipt of the Nulla Osta, aspirants must submit a visa application to the Italian embassy in respective countries.