8,000 Bangladeshi workers died abroad in past 5 years: Report

May 13th, 2009 - 11:40 am ICT by IANS  

Sheikh Hasina Dhaka, May 13 (IANS) Bangladesh, whose economy depends heavily on remittances from citizens employed abroad, received over 8,000 coffins in the last five years, a report said.
Job insecurity, tension at work, poor working conditions and unhealthy food habits have been cited as among the main reasons for the deaths.

The debate over the deaths is on as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina secured major concessions for Bangladeshi expatriates from Saudi Arabian authorities during her visit earlier this month.

Around 44 percent of the Bangladeshi migrant workers who returned home in coffins between Jan 1 and May 9 this year had died of cardiac arrests in West Asian and Southeast Asian countries, raising serious questions about the living standards of migrant workers in those countries, The Daily Star said Wednesday.

Cardiologists said acute tension caused by uncertainties of income and unhealthy food habits may lead to deaths by heart attacks, while labour rights activists are emphatic that mental tension caused by low income, debts, and lack of medical care abroad lead to such deaths.

A total of 904 bodies of migrant workers came from different countries between January and May, 391 of whom died of cardiac arrests, 268 in workplace accidents, 62 in road accidents, 115 of other illnesses, and the remaining due to various other reasons, according to official sources at Zia International Airport (ZIA).

Among the 391 deaths by cardiac arrests, 119 were in Saudi Arabia, 82 in Malaysia, 72 in the United Arab Emirates, 35 in Kuwait, 16 in Oman, 10 in Qatar, 10 in Bahrain, seven in Singapore and two in Lebanon - the major destinations abroad for Bangladeshi labourers.

The number of deaths of migrant workers abroad has been increasing exponentially since 2004.

Last year, the number of dead bodies transported home was 2,237, which was 1,673 in 2007, 1,402 in 2006, 1,248 in 2005, and 788 in 2004.

“It is usual that our workers have acute mental tension, as they work far from their relatives, and quite often their incomes are not up to their expectations,” said K.M.H.S. Sirajul Haque, chairman of the cardiology department at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.

In the Middle Eastern countries the migrant workers also eat more meat and other fatty foods than vegetables, he added, saying such food habits increase the risk of heart attacks.

Al-Amin Nayon, executive director of International Migrants Alliance Research Foundation, said it is surprising that many deceased workers aged between 25 and 40 had been medically fit at the time of leaving home, but died within a few months of getting to their workplaces abroad.

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