Driven by factors including flooding, drought and a lack of employment opportunities, over 11.1 million Bangladeshis have migrated abroad for work since the 1970s. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) today premiered a series of videos to help protect Bangladeshi migrant workers from human trafficking and exploitation when abroad.
The videos were developed by IOM X – IOM and USAID’s innovative campaign to prevent human trafficking and exploitation – during a series of participatory workshops that took place in Narsingdi from January to August of this year. The process, called the IOM X Roadshow, brings together stakeholders to identify an issue negatively impacting the community and develop a solution for it.
The event was graced by the presence of H. E. Nurul Islam, BSC, Minister of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment, People’s Republic of Bangladesh as the chief guest. Karen Heimsoth, Consular Chief, U.S. Embassy to Bangladesh, Sarat Dash, Chief of Mission, IOM Bangladesh, Tara Dermott, Program Leader, IOM X, Selim Reza, Director General, BMET, Rahnuma Salam, National Programme Officer, ILO, Sumaiya Islam, Executive Director, BOMSA, Shakirul Islam, Chairman, Ovibashi Kormi Unnoyoun Prokolpo, Masud Ali, Executive Director, INCIDIN Bangladesh, Sharif Shah Jamal Raz, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Robi, Nawazish Ali Khan, Advisor (Program), ATN Bangla, Md. Bulbul Hossain, Head of Sales, Radio Today and other top officials from U.S. Embassy and IOM Bangladesh were also present.
Without the correct visa, Bangladeshi migrants may face mistreatment from their employers including delayed or no salary payments, long working hours, restrictions on mobility, breached contracts, no medical treatment, physical and sexual exploitation, and poor working conditions.
“The Government of Bangladesh supports all efforts that will help protect Bangladeshi migrants from abuse abroad – and this starts at home. The videos produced by the IOM X Roadshow were informed by Bangladeshis, for Bangladeshis. Having the right visa to work abroad is critical, and we support the efforts IOM is making to ensure aspirant migrants verify the validity of their visas before leaving the country,” said H. E. Nurul Islam, BSC, Minister of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment, People’s Republic of Bangladesh.
“The United States is clear on its stance towards human trafficking and exploitation: we will not tolerate it, and we will tackle it from every angle. Through the IOM X Roadshow, we are able to empower migrants to make safer migration decisions before they leave home, and this reduces their vulnerability to human trafficking when they go abroad,” said Marcia Bernicat, U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh.
“The issue identified in Narsingdi was that Bangladeshis are migrating abroad for work oftenwith the wrong visas, such as tourist, Hajj or student visas, often facilitated by unregistered Dalals,” said Tara Dermott, Program Leader, IOM X. “This makes Bangladeshi migrants extremely vulnerable to human trafficking and exploitation once they arrive in the country they want to work in.”
“We don’t go into communities and say ‘this is your problem, and this is what you have to do about it’. Who would listen to us if we did? Instead, our approach with the IOM X Roadshow is to facilitate dialogue within a community, and help develop tools they need to address the solution. The videos we are launching today give a very clear message to aspirant Bangladeshi migrants: If you or someone you know is thinking of migrating abroad, visit IOMX.org/BD to find out how to check the legitimacy of your visa,” said Sarat Dash, Chief of Mission, IOM Bangladesh.
The IOM X Roadshow was made possible through the support of IOM X’s partners, the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment and the Ministry of Home Affairs, People’s Republic of Bangladesh, the U.S. State Department, USAID, Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program (OKUP), the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET) and the District Employment and Manpower Office (DEMO).
IOM X was supported by its media partners, ATN, Robi and Radio Today and creative agency, Asiatic.