DHAKA: Bangladesh said yesterday that it has shut down 166 recruiting agencies hiring people to work in Saudi Arabia after a spate of sexual abuse and torture allegations at the hands of employers in the Gulf kingdom. Since 1991, some 300,000 Bangladeshi women have travelled to Saudi Arabia, according to the Dhaka government, mostly to work as household staff. But a string of them have returned to Bangladesh in recent months levelling allegations of sexual abuse and torture and even that recruiters had sold them as sex slaves.


Last month videos secretly shot by Bangladeshi female workers were shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media and sparked protests across Bangladesh. Government spokesman Munirus Saleheen said that the agencies that were shut down had failed to provide safeguards to the migrant workers and in some cases sent them back to their employers. “Our campaign will continue,” Saleheen told AFP.


Their closure followed talks between Bangladeshi and Saudi officials in Riyadh. Both countries also decided to update an online database of the female workers to ensure their safety, a statement issued by the Bangladeshi expatriate welfare ministry said. Saudi police have also agreed not to hand back any Bangladeshi woman who escaped from a Saudi employer to her workplace, it said. The ministry also said that the Saudi Department of Protection and Support “will take prompt action if a female worker falls in danger”. Dhaka last week said it was also trying to repatriate another 32 women who filmed a joint distress call from a Saudi detention center after they ran away from their employers. – AFP