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The labour market of the United Arab Emirates still remains out of bounds for Bangladeshi workers after it was closed to them about eight years ago.

The government failed to reopen the labour market despite various moves it made in the past eight years, said officials in Dhaka and Abu Dhabi.

The United Arab Emirates, once the second largest destination for Bangladeshi workers, had recruited over 23.71 lakh workers starting from 1976.

Officials said that more than 10 lakh Bangladeshi workers were now working in the Gulf state.

Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training director general Shamsul Alam told New Age that the government started a fresh move to get the labour market in the Gulf country reopened to Bangladeshi workers soon.

Expatriates welfare and overseas employment minister Imran Ahmad, now in the Gulf country, had met his counterpart there over the issue.

‘The minister already had a sideline meeting with the UAE minister on Monday and requested him to reopen the labour market there,’ a labour official at the Bangladesh embassy in Abu Dhabi told New Age Tuesday evening.

There would be more such meetings between the two sides, he said.

‘Till now, no specific development has come out from the meeting,’ the official said, adding that the UAE government hinted at reopening its labour market soon.

The United Arab Emirates has stopped recruitment of workers from Bangladesh since September 2012 citing irregularities in the recruitment process, said officials.

But EWOE ministry officials said that the nation changed its policy towards Bangladesh after it did not support its bid to host the World Expo 2020 in Dubai.

The large international exhibition is designed to showcase achievements of nations from around the world.

Bangladesh’s support for the Russian bid to host the event surprised all, particularly Bangladeshis employed in the United Arab Emirates.

In the first round of voting on the expo venue in 2011, Bangladesh supported the Russian city of Ekaterinburg instead of Dubai. 

This surprised everyone because it was deemed detrimental to Bangladesh’s interests.

As the Russian city could not win in the first round, Bangladesh then voted for Dubai, which eventually won beating Ekaterinburg, Izmir of Turkey and Sao Paulo of Brazil.

Against this backdrop, Bangladesh ministers and senior government officials since September 2012 on numerous occasions have expressed optimism that the UAE job market would open ‘soon’ to Bangladeshi workers but the optimism went in vain.

Bangladeshi recruiters and migrant workers expressed frustration over the closure of the important labour market to Bangladeshi workers only and think that the Bangladesh government has failed to convince the UAE government in this regard.

Bangladeshi workers employed in that country were also facing various problems as they failed to change their employers, they said.

‘We expect that the UAE job market will be reopened soon as the UAE authorities have already decided to set up some workers’ screening centres in Bangladesh to select and recruit workers,’ a senior official of the EWOE ministry told New Age on Sunday.

Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies secretary general Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman said that thousands of workers could not be sent abroad as the UAE market remained closed to them.

‘We strongly urge the government to take effective steps to reopen the UAE labour market and retain other traditional markets for a sustainable labour migration from Bangladesh,’ he said.

The BAIRA leader went on that the United Arab Emirates having the capacity of recruiting over 50,000 workers from Bangladesh every year should be reopened soon.  

Shameem added that currently the country issued only tourist, business and visit visas to Bangladeshi nationals but no visas for workers.

He said that potential workers could be sent to the country by dishonest brokers using those visas and as a result many other problems could arise.

EWOE ministry officials said that a recently held inter-ministerial meeting strongly recommended that the immigration police should stop migration of potential workers abroad in the guise of tourists and visitors, including to the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and other countries.

Besides, a good number of Bangladeshi workers in the Gulf country were passing their days in jails due to their irregular status and involvement in criminal activities, said the officials.

Bangladeshi migrant Sabuj Miah, who owns a transport cushion manufacturing factory in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, has recently told New Age that despite acute shortage of workers in that country, its policy towards Bangladesh did not allow him to hire workers from this country.

He said that on expiry of the Bangladeshi workers’ job visas they were sent back home instead of renewing their visas as in the past.

Sabuj from Bajitpur, Kishoreganj, said that the country continued to hire Indian and Nepalese workers.

However, the United Arab Emirates has kept recruiting female workers from Bangladesh. The country takes over 24,00 female workers every year, said BMET officials.

Bangladesh Civil Society for Migration co-chair Syed Saiful Haque told New Age, ‘It can be described as a diplomatic failure of the Bangladesh government to reopen the UAE labour market over the last eight years.’

Saiful Haque, also the chairman of WARBE Development Foundation, hoped that the EWOE minister’s current move may be able to reopen the UAE labour market soon.

‘If he fails, then only the prime minister’s intervention will be needed to do the job,’ he added.

News Courtesy: www.newagebd.net

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