100 Bangladeshi maids return home after physical and mental abuse in Saudi Arabia

Bangladeshi maids leaving their country for Saudi Arabia.

At least 100 Bangladeshi female workers who were exploited or abused in Saudi Arabia returned back to their country last week, according to a rights group.

Human rights activists have called for Bangladeshi women to stop being sent to the Middle East to work as housemaids, Reuters reported.

Bangladeshi non-government organisation BRAC said a high number of women were returning from the Gulf after being mistreated, with at least 227 coming back last month – including the latest 100 – compared to 180 in January 2019.

The number of Bangladeshi women going to Saudi Arabia for work spiked from 20,000 in 2015 to 83,000 in 2017, when the two countries signed an agreement on domestic workers, according to government data.

However, human rights groups said there has also been an increasing number of reports of female workers being mistreated and returning home, leading to calls to review Bangladesh’s policy of sending housemaids to the Gulf.

Head of BRAC’s migration programme, Shariful Hasan, said the women who returned this week were physically and mentally tortured.

Mr Hasan told Reuters: “They don’t receive their wages properly. They are also physically beaten and tortured.

“In the last two years we found 25 to 30 women workers from the Middle East who suffered from major mental disorders. We also found five to six of them who were pregnant.”

Bangladesh is one of the largest exporters of labourers to Saudi Arabia, with a at least one million people going abroad to work in 2017, and the money sent back is the country’s second-highest source of foreign income earnings after garment manufacturing.

According to statistics from BRAC’s migration programme, in 2018 around 1,300 women returned from Saudi Arabia, saying they had been exploited or tortured.

Raunaq Jahan, who is a senior civil servant at the Ministry of Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment (EWOE), said the Bangladeshi government has not created a proper system to monitor the number of returning migrant workers.

Ms Jahan said the government was in the process of interviewing the female workers to try establish the hardships they experienced.

She said: “It will take some time but we will solve this.”

However, Bangladesh’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has demanded that the government take immediate action.

NHRC chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque said: “The stories of torture that we heard from these women were inhumane. Bangladesh should avoid sending housemaids and look at other professions.”

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