Unravelling the vicious cycle of recruitment

This study in Bangladesh was commissioned against the backdrop of growing concern globally about the particular vulnerability of both regular and irregular migrant workers to exploitation, trafficking and forced labour. It was undertaken to inform dialogue between Asian sender and Middle Eastern destination countries, at a Gulf Forum on Temporary Contractual Labour, held in Abu Dhabi in early 2008, along with a sister study addressing similar questions in Pakistan. While provisional findings were first presented at that time, we are now pleased to publish the full findings of the research, following the launch of the ILO’s third global report on forced labour, entitled “The cost of coercion” on 12 May 2009.

The influx of foreign workers to Gulf countries over the last few decades has created a unique situation in the region, with the majority of the labour force comprising non-nationals.
It is estimated that at least 10 million foreigners work in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)countries, most of them unskilled and semi-skilled migrants. Most of these temporary contract workers, both women and men, come from South and South-east Asian countries (notably Bangladesh, India, Indonesia Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka). They work in a variety of sectors – women largely in domestic work and in factories, and men in construction, manufacturing, security, transport and other sectors. This qualitative study of returned migrants by Dr. Rita Afsar of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) in Dhaka has shed new light on some of the complexities and problems faced by Bangladeshi migrant workers leaving the country to work in the Gulf States, as well as the benefits that such migration can bring.