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Recruitment of Bangladeshi migrant workers to the United Arab Emirates: elements of human trafficking for labour exploitation

posted on 2017-02-24, 01:20 authored by Azad, Ashraful
This thesis looks at the recruitment process of Bangladeshi migrant workers for employment in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) through the legal framework of human trafficking. Bangladesh is a major provider of migrant workers while the UAE is the second largest destination for Bangladeshi workers. Many migrant workers in the UAE, which is extremely dependent on migrant labour, face widespread labour exploitation. The migrant workers are recruited through a complex process by various recruitment actors which include private recruitment agents, brokers and social networks. These actors link the prospective workers in the country of origin with the employer in the destination. There are government bodies and rules to regulate the process. However, empirical findings undertaken for this study and other sources show that the recruitment actors often bypass or manipulate the rules. Moreover, some government officials responsible for regulation are involved in corruption, further complicating the process. As a result, illegal or unauthorised practices have become the norms rather than exception. Many migrant workers are often provided false or exaggerated information about jobs and related entitlements and later they face discrepancies between the promised and actual job and issues related to the job, including salary and living and working conditions. This thesis argues that, because of harmful recruitment practices many Bangladeshi workers are often deceived and become victims of human trafficking for labour exploitation under the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, 2012 (‘PSHT Act’) of Bangladesh as well as the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (‘TIP Protocol’). Some recruitment actors in Bangladesh deceive the prospective workers during recruitment for the purpose of exploitation or with the knowledge that the workers would face exploitative consequences. These practices amount to human trafficking under the PSHT Act. Empirical findings also indicate that, despite legal provisions, human trafficking is usually considered separate from ‘legal’ labour migration. Some stakeholders think, and argue, that human trafficking takes place when the migration process follows ‘illegal’ routes and the victims face ‘serious’ exploitation, particularly sexual exploitation. Based on the legal analysis and empirical findings, this thesis provides recommendations to improve the recruitment process, prevent human trafficking and reform some aspects of the PSHT Act. The government of Bangladesh should undertake measures to ensure that migrant workers make informed decisions during recruitment. This could be an effective step towards preventing human trafficking. The PSHT Act is a progressive action particularly in defining human trafficking, recognising labour exploitation and including all types of victims. Nevertheless, some important terms have not been defined in the Act. The government should take the initiative to clarify the terms and the relationship of the Act with labour migration. Anti-trafficking efforts need to clarify and publicise that trafficking can take place for the purpose of labour exploitation even in apparently ‘legal’ migration. Finally, the government should address the corrupt practices of officials; without addressing this root issue, no measure is likely to bring any change.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Heli Askola

Additional supervisor 1

Karen Wheelwright

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Master of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Law