A returnee migrant lost about $2,000 on average at their working place during the covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent study.
The victims left with back wages from two to nine months from mid-2020 till the end of this year amounting to more than Tk4.80 crore.
It was found that most of the victims did not get any salary after a lockdown was imposed from March 2020.
Returnees from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman and Iraq were among the worst victims.
The findings of the study were presented Wednesday at a programme titled 'Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers' held at Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU) in the city.
The study was conducted between August 2020 till December this year where around 300 cases were collected and analyzed from various districts. Welfare Association for the Rights of Bangladeshi Emigrants (WARBE) Development Foundation carried out the study.
The study showed that most of the victims were forcefully repatriated showing Covid-19 as the cause. Some didn't receive any salary before repatriation while their wages, service benefits, bonus or other opportunities were lost as well, said Syed Saiful Haque, Chairman, WARBE Development Foundation while presenting the findings.
Around 4.8 lakh Bangladeshi migrant workers returned from the destination countries during the pandemic, according to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET).
"Wage theft is a large form of exploitation and basic human rights violation. But there is a lack of campaign for protecting rights of migrant workers compared to the rights of the refugees," said, Nazrul Islam Mithu, president of DRU.
He emphasized a massive mass media campaign and the proactive role of various Bangladesh missions abroad.
Razequzzaman Ratan, a trade union leader, said the campaign against wage theft has to continue to protect the migrants from being victims in future.
"There should be an international body that will organize a movement for protecting migrants' rights across the world. A global claim centre is also necessary so that the workers can complain of any rights violation including wage theft," he said.
A previous study conducted by the Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit (RMMRU) published in August last found that around 67.7% of returnee migrants did not receive due wages in the destination countries while 38.7% received less wage amid the pandemic.
According to experts wage theft is the denial of wages or employee benefits rightfully owed to an employee.