Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Photo: iStock
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Photo: iStock

A non-governmental organization says many female Bangladeshi immigrant workers are being abused and exploited in Saudi Arabia.

Shariful Hasan, head of the Migration Programme at BRAC, a Dhaka-based NGO, said thousands of Bangladeshi women are forced to work 17 to 18 hours a day without rest days, for low wages, The Daily Star reported.

Hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshi women have gone to the Middle East since 2015 in search of ways to support their families in Bangladesh. Around 5,000 of them have returned home due after suffering abuse and even torture at the hands of employers.

Hasan said that due to the kafala, or sponsorship system, employers can confiscate their workers’ passports and withhold their salaries. He said that because many female domestic workers were being abused in Saudi Arabia, both the Philippines and Indonesia stopped sending workers there.

“In such a restrictive culture, women are more vulnerable to exploitation, both economic and sexual,” Hasan said.

Hasan said there was an influx of Bangladeshis to Saudi Arabia after the Philippines and Indonesia stopped sending workers, and that many of them have suffered from abuse and even violence.

“One deserves to be treated with basic human decency and dignity regardless of the culture he or she is living in,” he said.

According to Hasan, Bangladeshi domestic workers in Hong Kong and Japan enjoy relatively better treatment, and benefit from those countries not having anything like the kafala system. He said that domestic workers there have relatively few problems in adapting to new cultures.

“I do not believe that the problem is with our workers, If it was our women who were inherently unable to adapt to a foreign culture, why does no one return from these countries?,” he said.

Read: ‘Kafala system makes workers prone to abuse’

Read: Manila calls for end to ‘kafala’ system in Middle East

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