Deceived in the desert

Bangladeshi fortune-seekers helpless in north Africa
“I came to Libya eleven months ago in a group of 15. At the airport, two men of the agency that organised my work permit and visa in Dhaka took all our passports as soon as we came out of the immigration. We then boarded a bus. In the evening, we reached a big rickety house. Not a single person was on the road. We were given mattresses and asked to sleep there and to wait to start our job.”
“The place was very dirty. We were given khobja (local bread) to eat for the night. During the four months that we waited for starting our job, we were half starved, intimidated and warned of dire consequences if we tried to flee. After four months, as many of us started to get worried about our families, left back heavily indebted for our migration expenses, the two men led us to a factory one day, where we were told we would be working from early morning till evening.”
“A month later, when we asked the factory owner for our salaries, he told us the two men had a contract with him, according to which he would pay our salaries to them only. Two weeks later, the two men arrived at our dormitory and gave us 250 Libyan dinars each, half of what we were promised in Dhaka. The two men told us that the remainder of our salary was deducted for our food, accommodation and agency fees. For the next three months, the men arrived at our dormitory every month and paid us the deducted salary. Then over the last three months, before we fled Libya, there was no trace of the men. We were told by the factory owner, that he had paid the men our salaries.”
Over the last nine days I have been working in Choucha, where 17,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers from Libya took shelter, this has been the most common story I heard.
Most of these workers paid up to Tk 3 lakh to the agencies back home for a job in Libya.
The sad story of most of these migrant workers goes far. Noor Hossain, a middle-aged man from Noakhali Sadar, who spent 11 months in Tripoli, narrated his bitter experience to me.
“We could not complain to anyone in Bangladeshi embassy in fear of harassment because those notorious dalals (manpower brokers) were closely associated with officials there,” said Noor Hossain.
“In the recent official Bangla new year celebration at the embassy, those dalals were the top guests,” he added.
Noor Hossain and many others in Choucha camp told me how the brokers come into play in the entire process of exploitation. They also blamed the Libyan system of visa issuance for migrant workers for the exploitation. They said lack of honest officials at the Bangladesh embassy made the situation worse for the innocent workers.
A chronic shortage of laborers and skilled and semi-skilled workers always prevailed in the oil rich Libya, where, at any time, hundreds of big overseas companies are working on mega projects in all different sectors.
“Whenever a site requires some workers desperately, the Bangladeshi and other dalals are instantly there to sign a deal, because they have the ready foreign laborers within their custody in Libya, languishing in some undisclosed warehouses” said Ashutosh Roy from Shoilokupa in Jhenidah, who spent 2.5 years in Libya working as a construction worker.
How the Bangladeshi workers are initially brought into Libya before their brokers throw them into warehouses is yet another story that stands as “administratively perfect”.
Noor Hossain said false documents are produced in Libya with letterheads from different companies in fictitious names, and then, the documents are approved, as required by Bangladeshi rules, by the Bangladesh embassy.
A vicious cycle of human traffickers, comprising Libyans and other nationals, manage the visas in Libya.
“There were instances when the dalals and their associates added a zero to the number 100 and imported 1,000 workers from Bangladesh, and kept the extra 900 under their custody in derelict warehouses in the suburbs of the industrialized zones,” Abdul Halim, around 45, from Savar in Dhamrai.
As I sat down with a group of stranded Bangladeshi migrants inside a tent, more people crammed in to tell their stories.
“Over the last 11 months, we learnt about the warehouses where hundreds of newcomers from Bangladesh were kept in the most sub-human conditions,” said Noor Hossain.
Mohammad Sobhan from Narayanganj said he tried to call the Bangladesh Embassy in Tripoli to inform that their approved papers for the company in which he was supposed to work for US$ 400 did not exist.
“After trying the phone for a long time, an embassy person picked up and asked me to speak in English,” said Sobhan. “I gave up hope and obeyed the dalals thereafter,” he added.
Some of the names of the dalals they mentioned, have their own warehouses across Libya. For instance, ‘Salauddiner godown’, ‘Babuler godown’, ‘Jahangirer godown’, ‘Swadhiner godown’, where hundreds of Bangladeshis were forcibly confined.
“Many of these workers have sold their last belonging back home with a hope to prosper by offering sweat in a country that paid its laborers much better wages than in Bangladesh,” said Noor Hossain. “ But now their dreams have been shattered with Libya going into war,” he added.
While many in the Choucha camp were deeply worried about their future in Bangladesh, I met one man, Mohammad Abdus Samad Mukul, about 50, from Monirumpur in Jessore, who stood firm against all odds. Since Mukul left his 22-month old employment in Libya and fled towards Tunisia recently, he started writing songs about the upheavals in Libya and the ensuing sufferings of Bangladeshi migrant workers there. In the crowded camps every evening, young men gather around Mukul listening to his songs of hope in folklore tunes in his husky voice.
“I want to tell all my brothers here that our sufferings today will bring happiness for our future generations,” said Mukul after he finished singing a song.

 

Courtesy of The Daily Star

Related News

Depression, cold wave anticipated in late December

News Desk : dhakamirror.com A low to moderate cold wave – coupled with a depression – could grip the country at the end of December. As a result, mercury may dip as low as 6 Degrees Celsius in some regions of the country, Bangladesh Meteorological Department forecasted on Thursday. Bangladesh could see less rainfall than ... Read more

Car hits woman and drags her through DU campus, killing her

News Desk : dhakamirror.com The woman who was hit by a private car and dragged for several hundred yards on Dhaka University (DU) campus this afternoon died at Dhaka Medical College Hospital. She passed away around 4:30pm at DMCH, Masud Mia, an assistant sub-inspector of DMCH Police Outpost. The deceased was identified as Rubina Akther, ... Read more

International Travel & Tourism Expo from December 1

Business Desk : dhakamirror.com The first-ever Bangladesh International Travel and Tourism Expo BITTE, will open on December 1 in Dhaka for three days to promote of the country’s tourism industry and exposure to international visitors. The organiser of the expo, the Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (ATAB), organised a press conference in this regard ... Read more

90 lakh people will get Covid vaccine from December 1-7

News Desk : dhakamirror.com From December 1-7, the government will conduct a nationwide Covid vaccination program, with the goal of giving shots (including boosters) to 90 lakh individuals. Shamsul Hoque, member secretary of the vaccine deployment committee of Directorate General of Health Serv ices (DGHS), said this at a press briefing today. The campaign, which ... Read more

Pori Moni tells court she was “sexually harassed” at Uttara Boat Club

News Desk : dhakamirror.com Today, Pori Moni told a Dhaka tribunal about being sexually harassed by Dhaka’s Uttara Boat Club Limited’s former president Nasir U Mahmud, his assistant Tuhin Siddiqui Omi, and others in June of last year. Pori Moni said this while giving her depositions against Nasir, Omi and their associate Shah Shahidul Alam ... Read more

87.44% student pass SSC, equivalent examinations

2,69,602 get GPA 5 News Desk : dhakamirror.com The results of this year’s Secondary School Certificate and its equivalent examinations were published on Monday. The combined pass rate of SSC examination of all the education boards across Bangladesh and equivalent examinations in 2022 is 87.44 per cent. The rate was 93.58 per cent in 2021. ... Read more

Two New ticket counters in Kolkata for India-Bangladesh travelers

News Desk : dhakamirror.com Due to the high volume of people traveling between India and Bangladesh, the Indian Railways have erected two more ticket booths at Kolkata station. The demand for train tickets has increased dramatically since the drop of Covid-19 infections, reports The Daily Star quoted an Indian railway official as saying . The ... Read more

Two new divisions are planned

They’ll include Faridpur and Cumilla regions. News Desk : dhakamirror.com Padma and Meghna will be two new divisions created by the government, each containing districts from the existing Faridpur and Cumilla areas. A Cabinet Division official has stated that the topic will be discussed at this Sunday’s meeting of the National Implementation Committee for Administrative ... Read more

Argentine fan dies in Cumilla during the match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia

News Desk : dhakamirror.com On Tuesday evening in Burichong upazila, Cumilla, an argentine fan died after experiencing chest pains while watching the FIFA World Cup match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia. The dead, 50-year-old Kawsar Javed alias Kakon, son of the late Abdul Khaleque of the Shikarpur village in the Shikarpur upazila, collapsed with chest ... Read more

World Children’s Day: Unicef report exposes vast inequalities

News Desk : dhakamirror.com Today, as it does every year, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) is celebrating World Children’s Day in an effort to give children a voice in advocating for a better tomorrow and a more equitable and inclusive world. This year, the day will focus on the theme of “Inclusion, For Every ... Read more

NRSC turned down proposal to ban bikes on highways

Plan to reduce road accidents by 25% in 2 years is approved News Desk : dhakamirror.com In order to reduce traffic fatalities by a quarter by 2024 and by half by 2030, the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) approved the National Road Safety Strategic Action Plan (2020-24). At its 29th meeting held yesterday in the ... Read more

Ban on bikes on highways, action plan to be discussed at NRSC meeting

News Desk : dhakamirror.com After a gap of 21 months, the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), the highest government body dealing with road safety issues, will convene tomorrow. The National Road Safety Strategic Action Plan-2021-2024, the prohibition of motorcycles on busy highways, and the refusal to register vehicles that have been deemed abandoned are the ... Read more

Joypurhat train accident claims life of KUET student

News Desk : dhakamirror.com Early on Friday, a student from Khulna University of Engineering and Technology was killed when he was pinned between the train’s wheels at the Joypurhat Railway Station in the city’s district. He was a 23-year-old third-year student in the Leather Engineering Department at the KUET and the son of Shahriar Rais ... Read more

Fishermen are allowed to fish again after 22-day ban

A 22-day fishing ban on Hilsa, imposed to protect the fish during its peak breeding season has ended News Desk : dhakamirror.com The government lifted a 22-day ban on catching, selling, and transporting Hilsa on Friday. This meant that Hilsa could be caught, sold, and moved again on Saturday. When different kinds of fish caught ... Read more

30% of Bangladeshis face food scarcity

World Bank survey on Bangladesh’s Covid effect News Desk : dhakamirror.com A World Bank report finds 30 percent of Bangladeshis are enduring food scarcity despite the country’s economic recovery from pandemic-induced disruptions. The percentage of persons who went to sleep hungry virtually doubled from 7 percent in June last year to 13 percent in May ... Read more

Ctg and Cox’s Bazar airports will be closed for 21 hours

News Desk : dhakamirror.com Due to the adverse weather caused by Cyclone Sitrang, Chattogram and Cox’s Bazar airports will be closed for 21 hours, from 3 p.m. today until 12 p.m. tomorrow. Both Wing Commander Farhad H. Khan, director of Chattogram Airport, and Joydev Kumar Biswas, aerodrome officer at Cox’s Bazar Airport, confirmed this to ... Read more

Concern as vehicle fitness clearance hits a seven-year low

News Desk : dhakamirror.com While vehicle registrations increased significantly in the previous fiscal year, the number of fitness certifications decreased to a seven-year low, creating more concerns about road safety. At least 5.42 lakh registered vehicles have been functioning on the roads without the required fitness approval, owing to insufficient monitoring by authorities. The decision ... Read more

Shafiqul Islam, DMP commissioner to retire Oct 30

News Desk : dhakamirror.com Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner Shafiqul Islam is retiring on October 30. A gazette notification in this regard was issued by the Home Ministry’s Public Security Division on Wednesday. Deputy Secretary Dhananjay Kumar Das signed the notification on the orders of the President. The announcement states that retired Commissioner of Police ... Read more

Among 20 most unsustainable cities, Dhaka comes in at number four

News Desk : dhakamirror.com According to a global research released on Wednesday, Dhaka is ranked fourth among the 20 unsustainable megacities in the world. Lagos, Nairobi, Kinshasa, Dhaka, Baghdad, Lahore, Kolkata, and New Delhi are all expected to have rapid population increase of over 50% by 2050, according to the Ecological Threat Report (ETR) 2022. ... Read more

PBI submits final report in Mosarat murder case

News Desk : dhakamirror.com The Police Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday submitted its final report in the case of killing college student Mosarat Jahan Munia giving clean chit to Bashundhara Group managing director Sayem Sobhan Anvir who was named as the prime accused. Dhaka Metropolitan Police deputy commissioner for prosecution Jashim Uddin said that they ... Read more