The single hope, to change one's destiny, is what ties all migrants together whether they be the Bangladeshis who work in the forests of Malaysia, those who work as unskilled labour in the Middle East or those who go to the promised lands of the US. Not all of them are poor. Many are skilled and well educated. Still, the possibility of changing one's destiny is the single driving force that pushes people into precarious journeys all across the globe. They see it not merely as a means for economic freedom, but also as a means for social mobility.
In the 25 years since independence the middle class in Bangladesh has prospered, and many have climbed the social ladder. But except for a few rags-to-riches stories, the poor have been well and truly entrenched in poverty. They see little hope of ever being able to claw their way out of it, except perhaps through the promise of distant lands.
So it is that hundreds of workers mill around the Kuwait Embassy in Gulshan, the posh part of Dhaka where the wealthy Bangladeshis and the foreigners live, and the arduous struggle begins. False passports, employment agents, attempts to bribe immigration officials, the long uncertain wait.
Some wait outside the office of 'Prince Musa' in Banani. He is king of the agents. His secretary shows me the giant portraits taken with 'coloured gels', in an early Hollywood style. She talks of the culture of the man, his sense of style, his private jet, his place in the world of fashion.
He was himself from a small town in Faridpur who made good. Whether the wealth of the 'Prince' derives mainly from commissions paid by thousands of Bangladeshis or whether, as many assume, it is from lucrative arms deals, the incongruity of it all remains: the fabulously wealthy are earning from the poorest of the poor.
Whereas the 'Prince' has emigrated to the city and saves most of his money abroad, the migrant workers save every penny and send it to the local bank in their village. They have no illusions about 'settling' overseas, knowing only too well their status amongst those who know them only as cheap labour. Bangladesh is clearly, irrevocably, their home. They merely want a better life for themselves than the Bangladeshi princes have reserved for them.
Published: April 3, 2000
Dr. Shahidul Alam received Ireland's 'Michael Collins Path to Freedom Award'
Published: February 12, 2024
Inauguration ceremony of photography exhibition 'Rage and Hope' jointly organised by UNRCO and Drik
Published: December 13, 2023
প্রস্তুতি চলছে কার্টুনিস্টদের গাজা গণহত্যা বিরোধী প্রতিবাদী ও সংহতি প্রদর্শনীর।
Published: November 11, 2023
Drik's 2024 calendar available now!
Published: October 4, 2023
Drik film wins at prestigious Jackson Wild Festival 2023
Published: September 29, 2023
দৃকের ৩৪তম প্রতিষ্ঠা বার্ষিকী উপলক্ষে গোলাম কাসেম ড্যাডি লেকচার
Published: September 4, 2023