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February 2, 2023
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The Fate of Bangladeshi Workers in Romania

By Shahidul K K Shuvra

International human traffickers and their Bangladeshi counterparts found Romania as the latest gateway to cross Bangladeshi workers to West European countries. The borders of the East European County are their focus points to cross Asian and African workers to the richer parts of Europe. Especially Bangladesh workers pay 3000 Euros for traveling hidden and illegally to West European countries.

In the last two years, Romania made its visa policy flexible and started inviting international workers because a large number of its younger population lives in other countries for higher income. Thus, the country needs workers, about a hundred thousand new workers per year, especially for odd jobs like construction, welding, operating machinery, butchery, agriculture fields, etc. Mid of this year Romania opened on test a temporary Consular Section in Dhaka for three months and issued more than five thousand visas. So far more than 12 thousand Bangladesh people came to Romania with work visas by spending 7000 Euros to 12000 Euros, mostly paying to agencies and brokers; but 80 percent of the workers already left Romania by paying a furthermore 3000 Euros to the traffickers who provide secret vehicles to cross the borders; mostly unskilled workers from the middle-class family, misled by human traffickers and allured to go and then leave Romania to stay in West European countries illegally, despite knowing any time they could be arrested and deported; many migrants already deported to home; escaped workers do not have a chance to be legal in any European country.

Human traffickers are always interested in trafficking Bangladeshi people, the only reason is– they are willing to pay much; Bangladeshi migrant workers pay the agency five times higher than Indian workers to come to Romania and even they are selling properties to have money to migrate to Europe. It’s illogical to spend this big amount of money to come to one of the poorest countries in Eastern Europe where the salary scale for a white-collar job is less than Bangladeshi people working in banks and local companies; blue-collar workers don’t get much than skilled workers working in the major cities of Bangladesh.

The former communist country still has the toughest immigration laws in Europe; as I have found only 3/4 of Bangladeshis got citizenship by living continuously for many years through paying regular taxes, marriage, and becoming fluent in the Romanian language; most students came here didn’t complete a diploma, even no graduation in last one decade; and international workers’ right isn’t much clear; after losing, or changing job an employee has to restart another job processing from his own country, which means he has to come back to his own country. Some were waiting for the country would join the Schengen area, which might give them some opportunity; but Austria didn’t support the country to join the Schengen space on the ground of 75 thousand migrants illegally entered Austria by crossing Romanian borders.

It’s a nightmarish experience when migrant workers lose jobs, they don’t know where to go and seek help; the embassy is unable to help them and the Bangladesh embassy has no lawyer to defend a worker’s rights. I met some workers who don’t have job satisfaction and live in uncertainty; they are in fear of losing their jobs, this winter is a hard time for them, and most of them have nothing to do but escape to Western European countries.

In this way sending and bringing workers is promoting money laundering, the 7000 to 12000 Euros they pay to manpower agents, the major parts of the money comes to human traffickers who are based in Europe or another continent. Again they pay 3000 Euros to go to Italy or Germany from Romania, the money is sent by their family from Bangladesh by a money laundering channel. In total, they spend 10000 to 15000 Euros, and the major amount of the money workers are paying is under-table money. The present situation in Europe isn’t friendly for undocumented workers to earn and send money legally to their country.

Since the mid-90s Bangladesh didn’t have an embassy in Bucharest. In 2020 the country reopened the embassy by renting a luxurious antique house and a big budget for accommodating a few staff whose involvement in the manpower business is reported, and inefficiency in issuing visas to Romanian citizens was published in the media. The embassy is working like a manpower importing agency, it looks like the hub of the manpower business, and the ambassador is acting like its chief marketing officer who often visits Romanian factories and universities for requesting them to bring Bangladeshi workers and students who mostly use Romania as a ground to escape to the West European countries. Therefore, Romania should review its workers’ inviting policy, especially from Asia, it should first understand why don’t workers want to stay in the country and how to stop their escaping to West European countries. If the country doesn’t find a solution, then better to stop inviting workers for ending the business of human trafficking and human suffering as refugees.

 

The writer is a Bangladeshi journalist, worked at several English dailies, and now is a resident of Romania. He is can be reached at sshuvra@gmail.com  

 

Photo: www.pixabay.com

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