- 63 designated clinics in Bangladesh for aspiring migrants to the Gulf
- The Gulf Health Council endorsed clinics charge Tk8,850 per person
- In Bangladesh's neighbouring countries, the fee is only Tk1,000
- Some of the clinics issue fake certificate for Tk30,000-Tk60,000
Harassments, bribes and frauds in the name of medical tests at designated medical facilities stalk aspiring migrants to the Gulf countries.
Take the case of Abdur Razzaq for an example. The 34-year-old has been trying to go to Saudi Arabia for the past one and a half years. After getting a work visa from a Saudi employer, he did his medical check-up last year at Mohaimid Medical Center in Dhaka's Gulshan, which is a designated clinic of the Gulf Health Council (GHC).
Razzaq's hopes for a better life shattered abruptly as he failed to qualify the test. His result came positive in the TPHA test – a diagnosis to detect the dissolved number of antibodies in the serum sample of a patient against the causative agents of syphilis.
Subsequently, the man hailing from Sherpur did the same test in four different government and private hospitals in the capital, including Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and Evercare Hospital. All the four hospitals pronounced him TPHA negative.
With the test reports, Razzaq then rushed to Mohaimid. But the designated clinic turned down the reports. Then a middleman, whom the aspiring migrant claimed to be working for the clinic, approached Razzaq and took Tk20,000 from him for issuing a fitness certificate.
The middleman later returned the money, as Razzaq did not get any certificate.
Alleging medical fraud and harassment, he filed a complaint with the Ministry of Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment, health directorate and Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection.
But he is yet to get any solution even after almost nine months.
"I quit my job at an apparel factory to go abroad. But I got stuck due to the harassment. Meantime, I have spent several lakhs of taka," he added.
The GHC has 63 designated clinics in Bangladesh – 42 in Dhaka, 12 in Chattogram and 9 in Sylhet – that are authorised to issue the medical certificate. The centres charge Tk8,850 each aspiring migrant for the test.
The Gulf is the largest job destination of Bangladeshi migrants. Around 93% of total foreign jobs of the first 6 months of this year were generated in the gulf states, according to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training.
The aspiring migrants to six Middle Eastern countries – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman – have to take an online registration slip from the Gulf Health Council for health check-up. The slip mentions the medical centre where the candidate will undergo the test.
Aspiring migrants and recruiters alleged that most of the designated centres make the clients unfit, and then approach them for bribes to change the medical report. Even unfit individuals can reportedly get a fitness certificate for Tk30,000-Tk60,000.
They alleged the medical centres have made a syndicate which treats the aspiring migrants as just a "money machine".
"Except for the six Middle Eastern countries, other nations do not require the medical test conducted at designated clinics. The medical test charge for other countries is also reasonable compared to the GHC designated clinics," Tipu Sultan, president of the Recruiting Agencies OikkoParishad, told The Business Standard.
"Even the tests at GHC designated clinics cost around Tk1,000 in our neighbouring countries. We notified the authorities several times seeking remedies, but to no avail," he added.
Of the 42 designated medical centres in Dhaka, only two are well-known – Medinova Medical Services Ltd and IbnSina Medical Check-up Unit.
Mohammed Eazaz, general secretary of the Bangladesh Association of Gulf Medical Centre, said, "Although some complaints are true, 90% are false. We take prompt measures against anomalies as soon as we get any complaint."
"Besides, people can directly complain to the GHC by email," he added.
On why the tests are not done in well-known hospitals, he said, "It will require GHC's approval. It is entirely up to them [the hospitals] whether they will seek the approval."
He said they do not treat regular patients except those going abroad.
The GHC fitness conditions include that the aspiring migrants should not have neurological or psychiatric diseases, cardiac diseases, lung diseases such as bronchial asthma, renal diseases, renal failure and liver disease or failure.