Cheated workers forced to return from Singapore

The Daily Star

Several thousand Bangladeshi workers who went to Singapore with valid documents are being forced to return home in small groups as the Singaporean labour supplying companies allegedly cheated them by not arranging jobs for months.

Strong syndicates of manpower businesses in both Bangladesh and Singapore have been using sophisticated ways to swindle the workers for quite sometime resulting in such plight of the workers, said the returnees and other sources.

The government, however, said the joblessness has been created because of the global financial crisis, but knows no way to address it.

Returnees of a group of 26 workers who arrived in Dhaka Monday told The Daily Star that many such groups had already come back home from Singapore for similar reasons and many others will be coming shortly.

Singapore blacklisted over 40 companies of the country for their inability to provide regular jobs and salaries to the Bangladeshi workers.

Bangladesh also set a rule in which the Bangladesh mission in Singapore must attest all the job demands of shipping sector to make sure that workers are not hired against fake demands.

“An official of our labour wing in Singapore informed a few days back that some agencies were hiring more workers than required,” said an official at the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET).

The government therefore framed the new rule two months back, he said.

“Hiring workers from Bangladesh and then sending them back after a few months by the manpower agencies is a huge business. We have to pay Tk 4 to Tk 5 lakh each to go to Singapore,” said Abu Sayeed, one of the returnees, Monday night.

Promised by an agent a monthly salary equivalent to Tk 40,000 to Tk 50,000 for work in a shipping company, Sayeed went to Singapore on August 25 last year as a welder.

“After going there, I sat for a test and succeeded but I was not given any job for a single day,” he said, adding that he along with around 350 Bangladeshi workers was kept in a dormitory in a shabby condition.

“We were given minimal food just for survival. We complained to our embassy after a few weeks and to the Ministry of Manpower of Singapore but nothing happened,” the hapless worker said.

The Singapore Ministry of Manpower then arranged air ticket for the workers of Bangladesh so that they can return home, he said.

Sayeed said around 50 other workers of their group came back home for similar reasons. The agent also gradually cancels work permits of others, he added.

Sultana Adnan, welfare coordinator of Singapore Bangladesh Samity, an NGO registered in Singapore, said some charity groups have been providing food assistance to a number of such groups of unemployed workers.

“The manpower agents are very clever. They cancel the valid work permits of the workers in phases and send them in small groups so that no one can know the way of their cheating,” Adnan said while talking to The Daily Star yesterday.

Referring to an official of Bangladesh embassy in Singapore, she said there are around 10,000 jobless Bangladeshi workers in Singapore now. They were the victims of unscrupulous manpower syndicates, she said.

Expatriates’ Welfare Ministry Secretary Abdul Matin Chowdhury, however, said joblessness occurred due to global economic recession.

He said they would look into the matter seriously if complaints are made in this regard.

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