One Bangladeshi worker has to pay anything from 15k to 20k Riyal (4k to 6k US$) to reach Qatar.
From HR Desk:-
I worked as a Human Resources Personal in Qatar Power Construction in Qatar in 2016. During that tenure, many Bangladeshi people working in the same company approached me with the request to talk higher authority about new visas for their friends and relatives. Most of them didn’t ask it because they were generous and kind; they asked because they wanted to earn a massive commission from this visa. They had a fair offer for me, 3 to 4 thousand Qatari Riyal (about 1000 US$) for each unskilled and semi-skilled visa.
I had never prioritized such a way of earning. More notably, I always disagreed with such selling and reselling visas.
The main reason behind this is: A mouthwatering commission is given to human resources person for a visa. They sell it through different channels from Qatar to Bangladesh, which will cost prospective workers about 15 to 20K Riyal (4100 to 5500 US$) depending upon the company and the position.
An Employer and Company may be good and generous but when a visa offer reaches in hands of an individual or any local human resource agencies; Its value in the market is beyond imagination. Even though the company provides it for free, there is always a commission game.
The Journey of Repayment
How will immigrant workers be able to manage that money? He takes a loan from his friends and family, not sure what would be the interest rate. The amount of 15000 to 20000 Qatari Riyal (4100 to 5500 US$) for that visa is not earned so quickly. A Bangladeshi immigrant might require a minimum of two years to pay that loan. A saving of 1000 Qatari riyal per month (though this is highly unlikely) is needed. They sell the free visa and the free ticket offered by a company for the equivalent cost of two years of any worker. Immigrants spent two years of their life just for the repayment of a commission of a visa. A worker and his family is benefits nothing from his earning.
One Such Incident: 12 Employees of Naseer
I remember a particular case of twelve Bangladeshi persons working in my company. An individual named Naseer was a Bangladeshi who had a small construction company. It was more about the supplier company that would supply workers to different companies whenever it is needed. As it was his own company, he had immigrated many workers with no purpose but to collect the initial sum of 12 to 15 thousand Riyal from every individual. His evil deeds didn’t stop there. He used to supply them in different construction companies. They would pay him 100 Riyal per day per worker from a company (This also has another commission game is to be discussed another day). What he used to pay to workers is as less than 30 Riyal per day. For a day when they didn’t have any work, they wouldn’t be paid. Even for this small payment, he wouldn’t be honest. He was supposed to pay every month, but he didn’t pay it regularly. A month of salary after three to four months.
With all these hectics, they were allotted to work regularly in the company I work. Things were still not falling for good for them as they were not getting paid properly.
The time came when they had to renew the visa. In Qatar visas are re-validated every year. So this man Naseer demanded 3500 to 5000 (1k to 1.4k US$) Riyal for every one of his twelve workers who were working with us. His arguments were because they were not working with his company; they have to pay themselves for their visa processing. A worker who was working for 700 +200 Riyal has to pay 3500 Riyal ( another half-year of his salary) just for the sake of renewing the visa. His worker didn’t have any other option. He had frightened them saying the one who wouldn’t pay him has to sit unemployed or they may even have to return to their home country. He was successful in this attempt.
Blacklisted Naseer didn’t stop.
A few months later, Naseer company was blacklisted by the Qatar Government for violating many of immigrant policy. So, it was a time when Our company had to transfer the visa of those 12 workers in the name of Qatar Power Construction. As he saw his commission from the company going out of his hands, he again demanded 3000 each from every worker for transfer charges. Workers reported this thing to me, and I talked about it with the HR Manager. I don’t know what went there; they were backfired, threatened, and they didn’t have an option other than paying what he demanded. After some hurdles (and payment through the third party of course), ten of them were successfully transferred. Despite his unwillingness of the eleventh man, he had to go back to his old owner. I had contact with him for some more months but then our contact stopped after I left that company. The twelfth man had to return to Bangladesh.
Naseer is just an example.
Naseer is not just a single person who had taken advantage of owning a company. Even though his company was blacklisted, I never heard him going to jail in Qatar (and maybe never in Bangladesh too). I found no faith with the Embassy of Bangladesh, Doha, in the eyes of workers. Those workers take a Bangladeshi visa for nuts and sell them for diamonds are not only in the company I worked in. They are everywhere. Victims are everywhere too.
Beyond Naseer:- Other Problems faced by Bangladeshi immigrants.
Paying back their debt of initial visa payment doesn’t mean their hard days are over. One of the major problems faced by an unskilled and low skilled employee is to have their monthly salary reconsidered. Asking for a pay raise is a crime in most of the companies for unskilled workers.
This is one reason we used to see most of the Bangladeshi workers working in the same company in Qatar for 20 and more years. I have seen them and their salary structure where they are working with the same owner or company for many years with no increment. I have seen them working in some individual shops with intensive work, with no pay for months and no proper rest. Many have worked in a construction company for months with no compensation and nowhere to approach.
Though the Qatar government had rules of increasing their salary annually, for most of the unskilled workers, it is just a distant dream. In the past days, they were not allowed to change their company, else their visa would be canceled, and they have to return. Getting visa revoked means either permanently settle back in Bangladesh or pay another 15000 to return.
Abolishment of Kafala System:- Does it help?
Thanks to the new rule of Qatar Government, where migrant workers can change the contract with their employer after specific years of the agreement. This contract can motivate every individual to search for some better jobs. But most of the companies do not want to give transfer. Thus they need to return and come again; this rule is not so beneficial to a Bangladeshi worker unless they have excellent contact. A high number of unskilled and semi-skilled workers are unlikely to be beneficiaries of this system.
The writer within me has witnessed many more such stories which I shall continue to share in the coming days.
Why am I writing this?
Why I write about this situation is that many Bangladeshi workers have suffered because of this process. Most of those stories will vanish. Most of their juvenile days will be spent far away from family, and most of them might continue to struggle in the gulf.
Being a Nepalese, I have seen these things being replicated within Nepal as well. The Government of Nepal implemented a free visa and a free ticket system for immigrant workers needing to pay no amount to agencies. But it is followed only by few agencies, the rest of them charge anything from One hundred thousand local currency (almost one thousand dollars) for the salary of 700 + (200 QAR for food allowance). Even though this looks easy to return at a glance, very few unskilled workers manage to save beyond 600 QAR. If the initial invested amount is borrowed in a loan, one might need a minimum of 6 months to pay it ultimately. This comes at a substantial cost of separation from families.
Above the law?
Everyone knows that these illegal activities have been happening, but almost negligible addressed by any of the government in such cases. These countries Embassy in the Gulf seems silent in such a situation. I wish there were any human rights and civil society speaking about this, but No, it has hardly been spoken, let alone addressed.
In Nepal itself, I haven’t heard from any person being punished for such a crime. Neither I have listened to Bangladeshi government taking any steps against these modern forms of slavery (Of course Bangladesh government must be aware of this). Recently I heard the Malaysia government, after being overlooked by the Nepalese government, is thinking about Bangladeshi workers to fulfill their needs of workers. I fear the same might be repeated with aspirant workers seeking to fly to Malaysia.
Making it Short:-
This aspect of Immigrant workers working in the Gulf has always been vividly known, yet unspoken. As a storyteller within me longs to speak about their life, I write this post specifically dedicated to people from Bangladesh. There are also Nepalese and Indians who have suffered, but it’s the Bangladeshi who has suffered most.
Immigrant workers have been spending months and years to repay their initial investment amount when they continue to struggle in the exhaustive heat. If the government of Bangladesh doesn’t take proper initiation, the rich will continue to become more prosperous, and the poor will continue to struggle.
And a generation will spend themselves in the form of modern-day slavery.
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Suraj is a student in Applied Mathematics. He loves to call himself as a traveler and an author. He loves to sketch unexpressed stories of a random soul that he comes across.