DHAKA: The Bangladesh govt said Tuesday (Dec 3) that it has shut down 166 recruiting agencies hiring people to work in Saudi Arabia after a spate of sexual abuse and torture allegations at the hands of employers in the Gulf kingdom.
Since 1991, some 300,000 Bangladeshi women have travelled to Saudi Arabia, according to the Dhaka government, mostly to work as household staff.
But a string of them have returned to Bangladesh in recent months levelling allegations of sexual abuse and torture and even that recruiters had sold them as sex slaves.
Last month videos secretly shot by Bangladeshi female workers were shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media and sparked protests across Bangladesh.
Government spokesman Munirus Saleheen said that the agencies that were shut down had failed to provide safeguards to the migrant workers and in some cases sent them back to their employers.
"Our campaign will continue," Saleheen said.
Their closure followed talks between Bangladeshi and Saudi officials in Riyadh.
Both countries also decided to update an online database of the female workers to ensure their safety, a statement issued by the Bangladeshi expatriate welfare ministry said.
Saudi police have also agreed not to hand back any Bangladeshi woman who escaped from a Saudi employer to her workplace, it said.
The ministry also said that the Saudi Department of Protection and Support "will take prompt action if a female worker falls in danger".
Dhaka last week said it was also trying to repatriate another 32 women who filmed a joint distress call from a Saudi detention centre after they ran away from their employers.
A total of 66,680 overseas jobseekers went to Saudi Arabia in the first two months of this year while the number was 94,528 in the first two months of 2017, according to Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET).
BMET statistics show a total of 550,000 workers went to Saudi Arabia - Bangladesh’s biggest manpower market - last year.
Officials said around 25-30% of them are yet to get permanent jobs.
Besides, many of 87,000 female domestic workers have allegedly been harassed in various ways.
A large number of expatriate workers are also returning home from Saudi Arabia due to various difficulties. - Asian News Network/Agencies