Country’s missions abroad need proactive labour attaches

Staff Correspondent

Bangladesh missions abroad need ‘experienced and proactive’ officers as labour attaches, migration experts, academics and bureaucrats said Tuesday.
Speaking at a workshop at Dhaka University Senate Bhavan they urged the government to appoint officers as labour attaches who understand and have the commitment to attend to migrant workers’ issues.
They called for providing country specific training and orientation to labour attachés before sending them abroad.
The labour attaches must be conversant with the language, culture and labour practices of the host countries, they said.
The workshop on strengthening the office of labour attaché: Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka was organized by Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit of Dhaka University.
The government is contemplating to re-designate labour attaches as ‘welfare officers’ to make them more welfare service oriented, Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry additional secretary Hazrat Ali told the workshop.
He said that the outgoing workers needed the motivation to opt for low cost migration as it would keep them away from illegal activities abroad.
RMMRU coordinator and Dhaka University professor CR Abrar moderated the discussions.
Labour attaches must work with the understanding and commitment to solve the workers’ problems in the host countries, said former additional director general of Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training Selim Reza.
Reza who served as the labour attaché in Kuwait said that labour attaches must be sympathetic to the cause of the country’s workers abroad and the also needed to keep in touch with the Bangladshi community in the host countries.
Before sending officers abroad as labour attaches they must be provided country specific orientation, said overseas employment ministry deputy secretary Kazi Abul Kalam.
Labour attaches must know the host countries’ languages, said Kalam, who served as a labour attaché in Saudi Arabia.
Representatives of BRAC, Manusher Jonna Foundation and Ain-o-Salish Kendra, working on migrant workers rights took part in the discussions.
Abrar briefly presented the findings and recommendations made by RMMRU in its study on strengthening the office of labour attaché providing a comparative picture of labour attaché recruitment practices pursued by Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka.
Funded by UK Aid, the study was conducted under a Sussex University research programme on ‘Migrating out of Poverty’. In India, recruitment of labour attaches is treated as a matter of routine posting of officers.
Bangladesh advertises the post keeping it  open to cadre and non-cadre officers of various ministries and the appointments are made through interviews.
In sharp contrast, Sri Lanka appoints only labour ministry and concerned agency officers as labour attaches.
According to the study, Sri Lankan labour attaches have experience of dealing with domestic labour issues and, therefore, are more conversant with issues of migrant workers.
Among the three countries, Sri Lanka is better organized in handling the issues of its workers abroad, it shows.
The study reveals that cost of migration from Bangladesh is much higher than India and Sri Lanka.

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