• Friday, Dec 06, 2019
  • Last Update : 01:29 am

Is the government neglecting returning migrant workers?

  • Published at 01:57 am July 24th, 2019
Migrant workers-Syed Zakir Hossain

Comprehensive reintegration program may help ensure welfare of returning migrant workers. This is the second instalment of a five-part series

Migration experts and rights activists have blamed government reluctance and inaction for the plight of the returning migrants.  

They said if the country could make better use of the professional skills of returning migrant workers, it would not only help the national economy, but could also encourage social investment by returning migrant workers as well.  

Marina Sultana, director (program) of Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), said currently there is no specific research on returning migrants in the country. 

If these people use their skills or if the country has any mechanism to use their skills in a proper way it would give a boost to the economy. This has three components – using the skills of migrants, creating employment for them through investments, and encouraging them to work for community development, she added. 

The head of Brac Migration Program, Shariful Islam Hasan, said the labour migrant management system in the country only focuses on sending people out. 

When a migrant worker returns home, he or she needs three major services – emergency support, psychological counseling, and economic re-integration. But there is no mechanism to make these services available to returning migrant workers. 

The International Labour Organization (ILO) formulated a strategy paper for the re-integration of returning migrant workers in 2010, which recommended counseling, one stop information centres, data collection, and other important aspects that need to be ensured for the betterment of returning migrant workers. 

The strategy also identified specific responsibilities for ministries, directorates, and other government institutions, but for some reason the recommendations did not get implemented.      

Shariful Islam Hasan says very little has been done for returning migrants but the government cannot let this go on for long. 

Currently the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Brac, are working together in this regard, he added. 

Independent migration expert and former IOM expert, Asif Munier, held the government responsible for excluding migrants from welfare opportunities. 

He said if there is an integrated mechanism of tracking returning migrants, engaging both the Immigration police and the Expatriate Ministry in sharing their data, it could yield a reliable and useful database, as it is difficult to track migrants in their native communities.

Also Read- No rest for the migrants

“We have observed that police have a belief that they have confidential data and they cannot share it. They do not even share numbers with government bodies like the expatriate ministry as well,” Munier said.

Currently, the Bangladesh Employers Federation (BEF) is trying to stimulate private entrepreneurship in Chittagong and Sylhet districts where they would establish a sub-advisory centre for returning migrant workers. Such initiatives need to be spearheaded by the government to scale up investments by returning workers in relevant sectors. 

If the government wants to do something good for returning migrant workers, well coordinated efforts are needed from the  Expatriate Ministry, Home Ministry, and the Foreign Ministry. But once again, the problem lies with the government. Without the government’s active engagement a worthwile system to help returning workers cannot be established, Asif Munier said. 

Nazmul Ahsan, chairman of Bangladesh Ovibasi Adhikar Forum, said at a meeting on May 24, the chief of the current National Parliamentary Caucus on Migration and Development had informed him that the sector is going to get a very low budget and it might be covered by a block allocation from the PM’s fund and that the government might start working on collecting data this year, he added. 

Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, secretary general of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA), said although they have nothing to do with returning migrant workers, they want to work with them if they wish to go abroad again for employment. 

BAIRA could help them more effectively if the government arranges fresh exams that would certify the returned migrants and they could once again be sent abroad as skilled migrants. This would ensure them a better salary as well, he added. 

Asif Munier said Prabashi Kallyan Board is trying to help the returned migrants through Probashi Kallyan Bank (PKB), but the attempt so far has barely given fruitful results.    

Contacted, Mahtab Jabin, managing director of Probashi Kalyan Bank said the bank has two loan schemes for migrant workers: migration loans and rehabilitation loans. 

The bank provides advance loans to outbound migrant workers on easy terms, but for returning workers.