Owners of the recruiting agencies said sending a worker with the BMET’s permission cannot be considered as human trafficking
The 27 "trafficked" Bangladeshis have gone to Vietnam with emigration clearance cards from the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), the regulatory authority of manpower recruiting agencies.
Around 1,174, including the 27, went through the same process between January last year and March this year, according to BMET data.
The recruiting agencies have to submit an application form, a visa copy, an agreement paper of a job between an employer and a worker, a promise letter and some other documents to the BMET for getting emigration clearance cards.
Migration experts questioned how the regulatory authority can avoid its responsibility for the miserable conditions of Bangladeshi workers in Vietnam as all the workers have gone there under its watch.
Owners of the recruiting agencies said sending a worker with the BMET's permission cannot be considered as human trafficking.
Shamim Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, general secretary of Bangladesh International Recruiting Agencies (Baira), said, "More than 1000 Bangladeshis have gone to Vietnam from January 2019 to March 2020 under the BMET's watch. So, how did they go there while the BMET is playing the role as a regulatory body?"
"If a worker goes taking permission from the BMET, how can the process be treated as human trafficking?" he questioned.
Shariful Hasan, head of Brac Migration Programme, said, "The distressed workers in Vietnam went there with the BMET clearance cards. If there is no work in Vietnam how they went there – it is an issue of investigation."
The Business Standard got some visa copies of Bangladeshi workers, including the 27 who now want to return from Vietnam.
The agencies sent them with a DN Visa which is considered as the business visa in Vietnam.
Local middlemen had told the victims that they would be sent to Vietnam on work permits. However, the victims soon learned that they had business visas of three months instead, and the middlemen in Vietnam confiscated their passports and clearance cards after they reached the country.
Md Shamsul Alam, director general of the BMET, said, "The workers went to many countries with an entry visa with a duration of a few months. Later, they can convert it into a work permit visa there. The BMET permits the workers for Vietnam in the same process. Bangladeshis have started going to Vietnam from 2014."
"However, if the workers fall into any problem with their jobs, the recruiting agencies will be responsible according to the law. We have also summoned the agencies who are involved with the sending process of the 27 workers to Vietnam," he added.
"If the involvement of these recruiting agencies is proved, their licences will be cancelled."
The 27 Bangladeshis went to Vietnam in January this year. They had informed the Brac Migration Programme that they went to Vietnam through six recruiting agencies, who took Tk4-4.5 lakh from each of them.
After facing many difficulties, they have been staying in a hotel since July 3 this year near the Bangladesh embassy in Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam.
According to the Overseas Employment and Migration Act, the recruiting agencies are bound to bring back all distressed workers with their own costs, who went there with the clearance of the BMET.
The workers alleged to the Brac that Bangladesh embassy officials in Vietnam have created a pressure on them to return to their employers.
Brac sources confirmed that more than 80 Bangladeshis are in different crises at some camps of middlemen in Vietnam.
A press release, issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last Monday, read that although Vietnam is not a country that offers many work opportunities for prospective foreign workers, brokers traffic Bangladeshi workers through promises of sending them to prosperous countries such as Australia, New Zealand and rich parts of Southeast Asia.