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Cablegate: Government Attention Focused On Addressing Migrant

VZCZCXRO5840
OO RUEHCI RUEHDE
DE RUEHKA #1058/01 1770822
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 260822Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4417
INFO RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 7988
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 1714
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 9158
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0002
RUEHKU/AMEMBASSY KUWAIT 0243
RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI 0952
RUEHMK/AMEMBASSY MANAMA 0184
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0287
RUEHDO/AMEMBASSY DOHA 0198
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 0080
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 0810
RUEHDE/AMCONSUL DUBAI 0837
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 DHAKA 001058

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB ETRD KCRM KWMN KFRD PHUM BG
SUBJECT: GOVERNMENT ATTENTION FOCUSED ON ADDRESSING MIGRANT
LABOR ABUSES

REF: DHAKA 419

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. The Ministry of Expatriate Welfare pledged
its cooperation with the Embassy in combating labor
trafficking and tracking investigations and prosecutions of
these cases. Deputy Secretary Datta outlined for us the
various enforcement tools at their disposal, and described
some of the improvements that have been implemented in recent
months in the labor export industry. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) On June 8 POLOFF and USAID met with Sudhaker Datta,
Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and
Overseas Employment, to discuss USG concerns regarding
migrant labor abuse and labor trafficking issues.

LABOR EXPORTS: THE LAY OF THE LAND
==================================

3. (SBU) Datta emphasized the management of the Bangladesh
labor export industry is a joint government-private sector
operation. The Ministry of Expatriate Welfare has
responsibility for overseeing the labor export market in
Bangladesh. The Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training
(BMET), under the Ministry, maintains a database of workers.
BMET also conducts investigations into recruitment agency
abuses, and recommends actions to the Ministry. BMET has 21
offices (called District Employment and Manpower offices)
throughout the country. These district offices also attempt
to do outreach and provide accurate information for
prospective laborers.

4. (SBU) The Bangladesh Association of International
Recruitment Agencies (BAIRA) is the association that
represents the interests of recruitment agencies. The
association also plays a key facilitation role. In Malaysia,
for example, they collect visas and work permits and send
them to suitable recruitment agencies in Bangladesh. After
the arrest of BAIRA's president and dissolution of BAIRA's
board because of allegations of corruption and overcharging,
the government appointed an interim Deputy Secretary to run
the organization temporarily. (REFTEL)

5. (SBU) Presently, there are over 900 recruitment agencies
registered with BMET, though the Ministry estimates there are
only about 500 actually in operation. There are only five or
six large agencies able to process up to 1,000 workers per
month. Recruitment agencies have to pay the Ministry a
deposit of 700,000 taka ($10,150) when they register, and an
annual renewal fee of 20,000 taka ($290). Recently, the
Ministry has discussed raising the fee to two million taka
($29,000), but raising the barriers to entry could create an
industry dominated by just a few huge companies, and this
could drive up the price of labor and harm Bangladesh's
competitive edge.

INCREASED ENFORCEMENT, OVERSIGHT
================================

6. (SBU) Datta was optimistic the recent anti-corruption
drive was yielding improvements in the export labor industry.
All recruitment agencies must be licensed by the Expatriate
Welfare Ministry, which can issue administrative penalties
such as seizing deposits and canceling licenses. If offenses
exceed the deposit amount, the Ministry takes the
administrative actions it has at its disposal, and then
refers the case to the Home Ministry for further action.

7. (SBU) Malaysia's temporary freeze on the import of
Bangladeshi laborers in 2006, combined with a series of raids
by Bangladeshi authorities and closure of several recruitment
agencies linked to abuses, have helped clean up the
recruitment agency industry. After the reinstatement of a
bilateral agreement with Malaysia, the number of expatriate
workers going there has been steadily increasing, reaching
70,000 in May.

DHAKA 00001058 002 OF 003

A PROCESS WITH NEW SAFEGUARDS...
================================

8. (SBU) Datta described how a Malaysian company now recruits
labor from Bangladesh. First, the Malaysian company submits
a request for Bangladeshi laborers to the Malaysian
Immigration Department. Once permission is granted, the
company goes to BAIRA's Kuala Lumpur office, which provides
the Bangladeshi High Commission with company documents
(contract, company profile, etc.) for approval and forwarding
to the Expatriate Welfare Ministry in Dhaka.

9. (SBU) The Expatriate Welfare Ministry reviews the
documentation. Once BAIRA is informed of an approval, it
selects recruitment agencies it has chosen to fill the order.
The recruitment agencies, which have workers waiting to be
placed, provide BMET with names, passport numbers, and
fingerprints. BMET then forwards this information to the
Malaysian Immigration Department. The government of Malaysia
grants permission for those people to enter the country and
authorizes the High Commission in Dhaka to issue visas. Once
visas are issued, the Immigration Department informs the
Kuala Lumpur International Airport officials and police of
the names and flights of the workers.

...BUT STILL NOT PERFECT
========================

10. (SBU) In one recent case, Bangladeshi newspapers reported
that several workers were left stranded at Kuala Lumpur
International Airport for days without money, food, or phone
access, upon disembarking from a flight from Dhaka. Datta
explained the workers missed their original flight, and the
recruitment agency failed to inform the Malaysian authorities
of the new arrival flight. The Expatriate Ministry is
currently pursuing proceedings against the recruitment agency
involved, which will most likely result in a financial
penalty.

11. (SBU) When cases like this arise, the Bangladesh High
Commission in Kuala Lumpur is usually contacted immediately.
In this case, a breakdown in communication resulted in the
High Commission not being notified until the situation was
nearly resolved. Datta acknowledged the need for better
coordination between the Foreign Ministry and Expatriate
Welfare Ministry in the handling of cases such as this.

12. (SBU) Datta said the Expatriate Welfare Ministry is
trying to improve services for migrant workers, though it is
challenging since many workers have never been abroad before,
and the majority are illiterate. The Ministry produces
emergency information cards that are now included in all
workers' information packets, and Bangladeshi diplomats are
receiving improved training in how to respond to migrant
workers who come to the embassy seeking assistance.

COMMENT: MUCH ACCOMPLISHED, MUCH STILL TO BE DONE
============================================= ====

13. (SBU) COMMENT. The Expatriate Welfare Ministry has been
extremely responsive to our efforts to engage them in a
dialogue on combating labor migration abuses. The government
as a whole still tends to view trafficking through the lens
of sexual trafficking and child exploitation, but they are
cooperating with us in the development of an action plan to
fold labor into our joint anti-trafficking strategy.
Resources, particularly case tracking, remain the main
problem, but we are hopeful the government will be able to
expand its current case tracking system to incorporate
prosecutions of labor abuses as well. END COMMENT.

14. (SBU) Post continues to work closely with the Bangladesh
government, and especially the ministries for Home Affairs
and Expatriate Welfare, to address trafficking-related issues

DHAKA 00001058 003 OF 003


and create and maintain adequate tracking systems for ongoing
cases.
PASI

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