Migrant workers still paying off debts that brought them to Qatar

Arafat Ara

These days, Suman Mia works a power loom in a factory on the outskirts Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. He stands 15 hours a day. “I go to work at 3pm, and come home at 7am,” he said. “I have very little time to sleep, but there is nothing I can do about it. I have no better job opportunities.”

Mia, 30, had once been more hopeful about his prospects. He had dreamed of the money he could earn by going abroad. He had dreamed of Qatar. The gulf nation was hiring foreign workers to build infrastructure for the World Cup, and many around him were going. So he went too. Seven months later he returned, dreams shattered. “I was fired from the job four months before the end of my contract,” he said. “I faced my worst period. A huge debt burden was hanging over my head.”

The ability to work in Qatar had not come cheap for Mia. Like many migrant workers, he had borrowed money to finance his journey – 300,000 Bangladeshi takas (nearly $3000) at an interest rate of 15 per 1000, paid every week. By the time he returned home, he owed his creditors half a million takas….