“Saudi recruiting agencies and employers do not face any consequences for the torture of our female workers.”
The recruiting agencies of Bangladesh and of Saudi Arabia will have to take complete responsibility for female migrant workers during their employment in Saudi Arabia.
They will also be responsible for arranging housing and other facilities for the workers awaiting repatriation.
The decision came at the third joint technical committee meeting of both countries held in Riyadh on November 27, said Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Secretary Md Salim Reza at a press briefing at Probashi Kalyan Bhaban in Dhaka on Monday.
"Saudi Arabia has given an assurance that it will ensure the safety of Bangladeshi female workers," Reza said.
Reza also said the police will not send female workers back to their recruiters if they run away to escape abuse and torture. He added that Bangladesh and Saudi recruiting agencies will be responsible for female workers during their stay in Saudi Arabia.
The recruiting agencies will inform the Bangladesh Embassy and the Saudi Labour Ministry when the contract period of female workers ends.
The meeting decided to launch an IT platform called "MUSANED" where female workers' addresses, the full contact information of Bangladeshi and Saudi recruiting agencies, changed information of recruiters, female workers' arrival dates and other related information will be kept.
Saudi Arabia will also consider setting up an 'Approval Window' in the MUSANED system of the Bangladesh Embassy in Saudi Arabia.
If any female worker falls in trouble, the Saudi Department of Protection and Support will bring the issue to the attention of the Saudi authorities.
"We have always been responsible. But the accountability of the Saudi agency and the employer will have to be ensured," said Mohammed Ali Siddiqui, the public relations secretary of the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira) and the managing partner of Star Manpower Service.
"Following an MoU signed by both countries, we take responsibility of the workers for up to three months after their arrival in Saudi Arabia," said Kafil Uddin Majumder, proprietor of Freedom Overseas and also the member welfare secretary of Baira.
"We are answerable to our government. Some local recruiting agencies have even lost their registration, but Saudi recruiting agencies and employers do not face any consequences for the torture of our female workers. We have asked the government to take action but there has been no result," said Kafil.
The meeting also discussed the signing of a general agreement and the stopping of the visa business.
Discussions were also held on easing the case filing system at the Saudi Labour Court, and the Saudi authorities informing the embassies about this soon, Salim said.
Around 13,000 women returned from Saudi Arabia in the last four years, according to the Brac Migration Programme.
In the same period, 152 female workers died and 66 committed suicide while they were in Saudi Arabia. This year alone, the dead bodies of 53 female workers were sent back to Bangladesh.
Last year, 1,353 female workers returned home. Many of them reported being abused and unpaid.
There are about 700,000 Bangladeshi female workers in the Middle East. Between 1991 and July 2019, as many as 322,444 female workers went to work in Saudi Arabia – mostly as housekeepers.