Bangladeshis welcome Saudi labor reforms for foreign workers

Foreign workers at a construction site in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Reuters)
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Updated 17 November 2020

Bangladeshis welcome Saudi labor reforms for foreign workers

  • Bangladeshi workers praised the new system which will base the relationship between employers and workers on a standard contract certified by the government
  • Remittances from Bangladeshis in Saudi Arabia reached $4 billion in the last fiscal year, according to data from the Bangladeshi Bureau of Manpower, Employment, and Training (BMET)

DHAKA: Bangladeshi migrant workers in Saudi Arabia have lauded new labor reforms in the Kingdom easing contractual restrictions on foreign employees.

Saudi authorities recently announced that a seven-decade-old sponsorship system, known as kafala, was to be abolished.

The reforms, due to come into effect in March, are aimed at making the Saudi labor market more attractive by granting more than 10 million foreign workers the right to change jobs and leave the country without employers’ permission.

Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, secretary-general of the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA), told Arab News: “We welcome the decision of the Saudi government. It’s a very positive move. Now the workers can easily change their jobs which will definitely help them explore better opportunities in the job market of the Kingdom.”

He said that his organization was eagerly waiting to learn more about the new system and was looking forward to its implementation.

Saudi Arabia is the single largest destination for Bangladeshi migrant workers and more than 2 million of them are living in the Kingdom.

Every year, they send billions of dollars back to their home country. Remittances from Bangladeshis in Saudi Arabia reached $4 billion in the last fiscal year, according to data from the Bangladeshi Bureau of Manpower, Employment, and Training (BMET).

Shariful Hasan, migration head at Bangladesh-based international development agency BRAC, told Arab News that the new system would make life easier for migrant workers.

“It’s obvious that migrant workers will be benefitted through the reformation of the kafala system,” he said.

Under the current kafala system, migrant workers are generally bound to one employer.

Bangladeshi workers praised the new system which will base the relationship between employers and workers on a standard contract certified by the government, and will allow workers to apply directly for services via an e-government portal, instead of a mandatory employers’ approval.

“My shop is not doing good business since the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and I was planning to switch over the job. Now, I can take the decision on my own,” migrant worker Mohammed Hossain told Arab News.

Shams Joarder, who plans to work in Saudi Arabia, said the reform was a great relief as it would allow workers to search for new jobs on the expiry of their contracts while still residing in the Kingdom. “Now we can all change employer without any hassle,” he added.


Sri Lanka prison riot over coronavirus leaves 6 dead

Updated 49 min 26 sec ago

Sri Lanka prison riot over coronavirus leaves 6 dead

  • Inmates have staged protests in recent weeks at several prisons as the number of coronavirus cases surges in the facilities

COLOMBO: Inmates unhappy about the coronavirus threat at an overcrowded prison near Sri Lanka’s capital have clashed with guards who opened fire, leaving six prisoners dead and 35 others injured, officials said Monday. Two guards were critically injured, they said.
Pandemic-related unrest has been growing in the country’s prisons. Inmates have staged protests in recent weeks at several prisons as the number of coronavirus cases surges in the facilities.
More than a thousand inmates in five prisons have tested positive for the coronavirus and at least two have died. About 50 prison guards have also tested positive.
Senaka Perera, a lawyer with the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners, said the inmates at Mahara prison near Colombo had been frustrated because their pleas for coronavirus testing and separation of infected prisoners had been ignored by officials for more than a month.
Sri Lanka has experienced an upsurge in coronavirus cases since last month when two clusters – one centered at a garment factory and other at a fish market – emerged in Colombo and its suburbs.
Confirmed cases from the two clusters have reached 19,449. Sri Lanka has reported a total number of 22,988 coronavirus cases, including 109 fatalities.