The Financial Express

Illegal migrants in Brunei exposed to pandemic

Arafat Ara | Published: April 03, 2020 08:14:44 | Updated: April 03, 2020 14:36:54

Illegal migrants in Brunei exposed to pandemic

Bangladeshi migrants, staying in Brunei without documents, are at high risk of getting infected with coronavirus as many of them are reluctant about tests to avoid detention by the authorities concerned, officials said.

So far, seven Bangladeshis have been infected with Covid-19 in Brunei while 129 cases have been confirmed in the Southeast Asian country since March.

Officials predicted that the number of coronavirus cases might be much higher among Bangladeshi workers than that of reported ones. Many undocumented workers are not reporting to the hospitals concerned as they think they may be arrested by the law enforcers after completing treatment because of their irregular status.

However, the Bangladesh High Commission in Bandar Seri Begawan has assured the workers that they would not face any legal action at this moment. The High Commission will help them solve visa and passport related problems. But the workers are not following the mission's directives, sources said.

Currently, about 25,000 Bangladeshis are staying in Brunei. Of them, 90 per cent were cheated by human traffickers. So, they have no legal documents like visas and passports. Traffickers took their documents away when they arrived at the airport of Brunei. Human traffickers' ringleaders still remained unassailable.

The majority of the workers are working in the construction sector. Because of lockdown, all construction projects remained suspended. In such a situation, they are facing financial constraints. Many of them are taking money from their families living in Bangladesh to meet their needs.

When contacted, Jelal Hossain, first secretary at the Bangladesh High Commission in Brunei, said Bangladeshi workers who were cheated by human traffickers are in a difficult situation.

Their living condition is not good. At least 20-25 workers are residing in a room. So, if any worker is infected with coronavirus, then all of them will be at high risk of contamination, he said.

They advised the workers to go for test if they show any kind of symptom of the deadly virus. The mission is also updating necessary rules and suggestions regarding coronavirus on its Facebook page for the workers, he added.

Besides, they have a plan to provide poor workers with food and other necessities, Mr Hossain mentioned.


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