Death toll among overseas Bangaldeshi workers, including in Singapore, on the rise

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Just one day ago, on January 22, another Bangladeshi worker was killed in Subang Jaya, Malaysia, when the floor of a building collapsed and the man fell 14 meters and was trapped under cement and steel.

A Bangladeshi construction worker was killed on January 14 when an elevator in an HDB building in Chai Chee Road fell several floors. The building was in the process of being upgraded, including the lift. The 28-year-old killed was part of a team that had been moving debris from the fifth to the first floor, according to a spokesman from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

Other workers found the man lying unconscious in the elevator after it had fallen. The Singapore Civil Defence Force sent paramedics to the HDB, and the man was pronounced dead soon after they arrived.

While both the police and MOM are investigating the incident, it is by no means the only time that a Bangladeshi national was killed while at work, and Singapore is not the only country where this is happening.

Another construction worker was killed in 2017. A 21-year-old Bangladeshi man fell from the 22nd floor of the Marina One construction site, and his body was discovered without a harness on the third floor. He, unfortunately, fell on another countryman, who was rushed to Singapore General Hospital.

In 2018, officials say that nearly 3,800 men and women from Bangladesh died while employed overseas. This is the largest number in the last 13 years, and experts believe that the main contributing factor in their deaths are the poor working conditions, including treatment, to which they are subjected, the South China Morning Post reports. One example of such a death is that of Mousumi Akter, a 20-year-old woman who started working in Jordan in 2017.

It is not unusual for Bangladeshis to leave home to work abroad, and yet, the growing body count is causing the families of the bereaved to ask why more and more of their countrymen are dying overseas.

The remittance from overseas workers is the second highest source of foreign currency earnings for the country.

Akter supposedly died from a stroke, according to medical reports. But the young woman bore black marks on her body, which suggested ill-treatment. Her uncle, Mohammad Imran Khan said, “we noticed black marks on her body once it arrived, which suggested to us that she was tortured. Also, how can she suffer from a stroke? She was only 20.”

The family of 23-year-old Bilal Hossain, who had worked in Saudi Arabia, was also told that he died of a stroke. Later they found out that he died upon suffering an electric shock while clearing water from a street.

In fact, one out of every two deaths of Bangladeshi workers in the last two months of 2018 was determined to be from a “stroke,” according to information from the Wage Earners’ Welfare Board.

The government of Bangladesh has said that a record high of over one million Bangladeshis received overseas employment in 2017. However, the number of people who have died abroad is reflective of the poor conditions that migrant workers are forced to suffer, according to some experts.

A professor of International Relations at the University of Dhaka, CR Abrar, said, “Stress plays a big role. Even before going there, they are having to spend so much. They have no idea about the pain they are about to go through … We need more protective measures because stress-related issues are ignored.”

Shakirul Islam, the head of a research organization specializing in the issues of migrants, says, “Workers die because of a number of reasons. For one, they work in poor conditions. Secondly, they have to pay a high migration cost in order to get a visa to go work there. This is accomplished through loans. This, in turn, creates a mental pressure on the workers.”

Both Abrar and Shakirul say that the government must do more for overseas workers at risk.

A senior civil servant with Bangladesh’s Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment, Raunaq Jahan, said, “We need to think about this. If we feel that a dead body requires another autopsy, then why not? These are new issues that we need to think about.”

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