More than two-third of the Bangladeshi migrants working in different countries have not received their wages properly since February last year, the very beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
At least 38.7 percent of the returnee migrants have experienced cut in their wages, according to a study report conducted jointly by Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit (RMMRU) and Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA).
The study report titled 'Addressing Systemic Challenges of Wage Theft: Bangladesh Covid-19 Returnees from the Gulf States'' was published in a virtual event held on Wednesday organised jointly by Bangladesh Civil Society for Migrants (BCSM) and RMMRU.
The study said around 67.7 percent returnee expatriates hadn't received due wages on regular basis after February last year in the employer countries while 38.7 percent had experienced reduced wages.
It said on average, a returnee lost Tk 1, 79,989 on wages and other entitlements, but 92 percent of them did not register complaints in the destination countries.
The study report was made after interviewing a total of 1,160 returnee migrants from the country's 45 districts who returned from six Gulf countries - Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait.
They were interviewed from March 25 to May 6 this year.
Among the returnees, more than 48.6 percent have lost jobs while 63 percent were forced to return or stay back in Bangladesh on the instruction of their employers. Besides, 28.5 percent migrants came on vacation and got stranded in Bangladesh.
While presenting the study findings, C R Abrar, Executive Director of RMMRU and key organizer of BCSM, said, "The experiences expose the systemic weakness of protection structure of migrant workers in the region particularly during an emergency situation."
Failure of the destination country's administration and the limited capacity of the missions concerned to render assistance to the aggrieved workers were evident.
The policies of forcible and unplanned repatriation have harmed the worker's interests as many had to return to a condition of debt bondage," he added.
He said to ensure transitional justice for the victims, legal actions are urgent. At the same time, there is also an urgent need for structural reform of the labour migration regime to address the systemic failures.
The study also finds around 48 percent returnee migrants who are still stranded in the country want to re-migrate abroad as they are not getting adequate scope of employment in the country.
The highest number of respondents was from construction sector (38pc) while the rest were from gardening, cleaning, domestic works, hospitality sector, driving and sales, trading, managerial position and nurses and paramedics.
In case of involuntary repatriation of workers with valid contracts, onus lies with the employer to bear the full cost of repatriation including medical test, the research recommends.
Around 4.8 lakh Bangladeshi workers returned from destination countries amid pandemic, according to Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training.