Bangladesh is actively negotiating with the Lebanese government to ensure amnesty for hundreds of Bangladeshi workers, mostly housemaids, under an amnesty declared for 'illegal migrant labourers.'
Nearly 90 per cent of the labourers are based in Beirut, capital of Lebanon, and majority of them are women. The rest are male who are engaged in construction work and salesmanship.
Nazrul Islam, newly-accredited Ambassador to Lebanon, said the abuse and harassment of migrant labourers from Bangladesh are nominal. The perpetrators are punished by independent judiciary, which is not common in other middle-east countries, he observed.
An estimated 200,000 migrant workers in Lebanon are from Bangladesh, which constitutes nearly one-fourth of the total migrant workforce in that country.
Recently, Lebanese government has issued amnesty to "illegal migrant workers" on voluntary return to respective countries of origin.
Lebanese police arrested hundreds of illegal workers, mostly from Philippine, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and elsewhere and sent them to prison with a fine of US$200 each.
The amnesty allows all imprisoned workers who desire to be repatriated on voluntary basis and obviously pay the fine of $200 for each year of their stay in Lebanon would be exempted, explained Nazrul Islam, who was until recently Director General of Middle-East (West Asia) Desk.
The envoy said his first priority would be to address the issue.
Bangladesh Embassy in Beirut is cooperating with the Lebanese authorities to identify those beleaguered Bangladeshis who are willing to be repatriated.
Ambassador Islam told The Daily Observer that the embassy's consular section has identified 300 Bangladeshis who are willing to accept the offer of voluntary repatriation.
Those who are willing to avail the amnesty would definitely save a huge cost in fines, whosoever are languishing in prison for 5-6 years or more, the Bangladesh envoy said.
A list of those willing to avail voluntary repatriation would be finalised next week and the process of sending them home would follow, he confirmed.
Absence of any bilateral agreement is likely to delay negotiations with the Lebanese government regarding employment, labour rights and repatriation. "There is a need for a bilateral agreement between the two countries to seal the deal which would ensure migrant labourers from Bangladesh their rights," the envoy concluded.