7th APRIL 2015 - Vol.XXXVIII No.018
Local News

Summer taking toll on workers

THREE Bangladeshi workers have died in Bahrain on an average every month for the last six months as a result of health problems, workplace accidents or road accidents, according to the Bangladeshi Embassy.

Death toll for the workers, many of whom are said to develop illnesses because of their working and living conditions, increase during the summer because of cases of heatstroke from working in adverse conditions, Bangladesh Ambassador Ruhul Amin told the GDN.

Mr Amin was speaking on the sidelines of an open house and free clinic being hosted by the embassy in Adliya, as part of an attempt to curb the worrying death rates.

"In the last six months, on an average, every month three Bangladeshis died in Bahrain. We probed into the reasons for this untimely deaths.

"One out of three die of health problems, like high blood pressure and heart problems exacerbated by diabetes.

"In summer the toll increases. Some people suffer from heatstroke.

"One out of three die of workplace accidents or road accidents."

The open house and free medical clinic was aimed to provide communication with embassy officials as well as a basic health check-ups for poor Bangladeshi workers.

"An important feature is the medical check-up facility, a kind of free Friday clinic," said Mr Amin.

"This has been possible thanks to the courtesy of Shifa Al Jazeera Medical Centre.

"The idea is to extend primary medical care services to the poorest of the poor workers, who are not covered by Gosi, who cannot gather enough money to go to a hospital or a clinic."

However, for many workers, some of whom work seven days a week, it was impossible to attend the open house and free clinic service, Mr Amin added.

"(To publicise the open house clinic) we have launched a drive through Press, leaflets and started a programme of registration of Bangladeshi nationals and asking them to publicise this event.

"But there are difficulties - people here come and can only stay for 10 to 15 minutes because they all work.

"Most of the workers here are required to work seven days a week. They don't have off-days, so they could maybe take an hour off, come here and go back.

"For many workers who are paid as low as BD40 a month, coming to the embassy is not possible as there is poor public transport system in Bahrain.

"Some tell us if they have to take a taxi it costs up to BD4 - and for a poor worker it is a big sum."

Cases reviewed by the embassy also included those of victims of trafficking and exploitation, said Mr Amin.

"What we are doing here (at the open house) is telling our nationals what to do and what not to do. We have also issued a health advisory in Bangla with the help of experienced doctors.

"We are telling them about food and living habits, about hygiene, so that they don't fall sick.

"We have received some 30 to 40 Bangladeshis arriving.

"Today we mainly had extremely poor workers requiring medical care and advice.

"We had a few cases of workers who are victims of trafficking, victims of dishonest employers, who issued a work permit and after one or two months of the workers' arrival they (employers) closed down their "fake company", throwing the workers onto the streets.

"The workers then are branded illegal, the employers sometimes destroy their passports, sometimes even they don't give them their passports and they have no employment. They have become so called free visa workers. And when you are illegal, you have no papers, and are easy to exploit.

"Some are working only for food and are not paid salary.

"We have listened to them but the company which recruited them does not exist, where do we go?

"We advised them to go back to Bangladesh, but they have come here after spending almost BD2,000 - that means they have sold their land, they have borrowed money. Now, when they go back, lenders will demand money. They are fugitives from their country and slaves in this country."

Mr Amin welcomed moves by the Bahrain government to improve living conditions for foreign workers.

"Here I want to note in particular with immense gratitude and appreciation the decision of the government to ban work in construction sites from 1pm-4pm - that certainly will save many lives," he said.

"We recognise with high appreciation this, and several other measures taken by Bahrain.

"One is that any company having 10 or more workers have to pay salaries through bank accounts. "This relief from work on the construction site for four hours will be of immense help."

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