With input by TWC2 volunteer Clovie Peck, based on interviews in July 2020

The multiple of twelve looked about average. The recruitment fee of $6,000 being asked for by the recruiter was 12 times the basic salary of the job ($500 per month) being offered. At this basic salary, the recruitment fee might be recoverable if Rahman Md Habibur saved $300 a month over 20 months and used that sum as repayment to the bank. That would leave him and his family the remaining $200 to live on each month, more if he managed to earn overtime wages.

Brac Bank however, wanted him to repay about $430 a month, not $300.

More precisely, the numbers were like this: The bank lent him about 360,000 taka (roughly equivalent to the $6,000 Habibur needed to pay his recruiter), and expected repayment of 26,000 taka (roughly $430) each month for perhaps sixteen months. We say “perhaps” because Habibur doesn’t seem sure about how many months the repayment schedule is spread over, though he says he has to repay a grand total of something over 400,000 taka.

The difference between the 400,000+ taka he must repay and the 360,000 taka he took out as a loan is the “commission” for the bank — what we might call the interest.

To date, Habibur has managed to repay ten months’ intsallments.

“First two month, I pay,” he says. “Then accident.”

Haibur was injured at work on 14 October 2019, slightly over two months after commencing on the job. From that point on, he’s not been able to work and has had no income.

His father-in-law, having been the one who helped him arrange the bank loan in the first place, felt responsible for keeping up the repayments to the lender. This he did — 26,000 taka a month as agreed — for the next eight months.

“Then father-in-law die,” says Habibur. “Now I don’t know who going to pay.”

Fortunately, the bank called some kind of moratorium on debt repayments on account of Covid-19. According to Habibur, “bank say no need pay for two months.”

“But two months over already, and now must pay again.”

Currently, Habibur is on a Special Pass, awaiting the conclusion of this injury compensation claim. His Work Permit was cancelled some time after the accident. Unlike a Work Permit, a Special Pass does not allow him to take up employment. Thus, there is no way he can find the money to resume payments to Brac Bank.

It is unfortunate that an accident occurred. Put out of work by injury, anybody would be financially stressed. For migrant workers like Habibur howewever, there is the added burden of having to pay off loans — loans incurred by being made to pay ridiculously high recruitment costs.