Migrant Workers: The Never-ending Tragedy

January 13, 2009
Sanjib Kumar Roy, Reuters

One of the survivors of the Andaman tragedy being helped by an Indian coastguard. (Photo: Sanjib Kumar Roy, Reuters)

Throughout 2008 we received reports about how poor men and women were swindled by recruiting agents in Bangladesh and left stranded in hostile foreign country environments. We saw employers in host countries, taking advantage of migrants’ ‘undocumented’ status to abuse their rights and cheat them of payment. When abused workers tried to protest, it led to ‘bad press’ for ‘Bangladeshi workers’ as a category, and many were sent back en masse. Some governments threatened to stop recruiting Bangladeshi workers altogether, leading to weak and ineffective diplomatic overtures from our side. While the latest press headline reports overseas remittances hitting a new high, the year 2008 ended with another tragedy. 300 Bangladeshi men headed for Malaysia drowned in the sea near the Andaman Islands.

Hana Shams Ahmed

[STAR magazine, 09 January, 2009]

According to press reports from Reuters, 412 men, mostly of Bangladeshi nationality, were promised jobs in Malaysia by unidentified recruiting agents. On 14 November these men, aged between 18 and 60, set sail on six motorised vehicles. At some point during their journey, the men changed vessels, according to an Indian coast guard statement. One survivor, identified as Mohammad Ismail Arafat, said he and others had paid a Bangladeshi agent for jobs in Malaysia. The boats they were travelling in did not have enough food in them and seven of the men died from starvation. After drifting around aimlessly for days, they finally spotted a lighthouse somewhere along the Andaman Islands. Hoping they would be able to swim ashore, the men jumped into the sea. Indian coast guard officials said a group of men were rescued from a small boat near Little Andaman Island, from the water. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands lie about 1,200km (750 miles) east of the Indian mainland. Coastguards finally rescued a total of 112 men. The remaining 300 men drowned at sea.

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Youth Boom and Possible Futures

January 5, 2009

Naeem Mohaiemen

Photo: Naeem Mohaiemen

Hana Shams Ahmed

[Published in ‘Our Common Future: South Asia’ by Liberal Youth South Asia, a network of liberal youth and youth organisations. November 2008]

In 2008, the results of Bangladesh’s Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exams had an all-time record pass percentage – 72 per cent – and the highest number of GPA-5 recipients ever. For a few years now, all these records are getting broken at every level of higher education. Beyond what it may mean for higher education, it keeps bringing to the media images of hundreds of thousands of young boys and girls in the streets – waving, clapping, celebrating – the shape of our exploding youth boom.

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