Coming back home sometimes becomes traumatic, instead of comforting, for many returning migrants. This is the last instalment of a five-part series
Many returning migrants are struggling to adjust to life back in Bangladesh, as the inability to find work results in societal pressure, experts have said.
Although the returning migrants may have gained significant work experience and developed various skills abroad, differences in labour and business patterns make it difficult for them to find work, they added.
Furthermore, shifts in social norms while the migrants were away also lead them to feel out of place in rapidly developing Bangladesh, leaving them in need of psychological support.
Speaking to returning migrants in Savar, Keraniganj, and Narayanganj, it was found that none of them were aware of centres that could provide them with psychological support to help with adjustment.
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Experts also said there is a lack of a government mechanism to ensure the psychological health of migrants who had returned, although some who were deported received assistance through Prottasha – a reintegration program for returning migrants implemented by the International Organization of Migration (IOM) and Brac.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) National Project Coordinator Suraia Banu, many returning migrants wish to go abroad again after failing to find work in Bangladesh, as family members pressure them to earn.
Head of Brac Migration program Shariful Islam Hasan said: “A strange norm has developed in the country, where they allow a person to go abroad but are unwilling to accept them back. There is no mechanism for reintegration of these returning migrants to the communities that are not allowing them to go back to their old life, even if they were successful in building the necessary capital for starting a business.”
Migration expert Asif Munier said: “We often see that the inability to find work leaves many returning migrants frustrated, causing them psychological trauma. The irony is that they are not aware of the problem, as they lack adequate knowledge of mental health.”
The lack of counselling services for such migrants may lead them to become unproductive, depriving the country of their services, he added.
The migration expert also said while there are some psychological counselling services for specific cases of returning migrants that were taken up by NGOs, there is little support for those who return normally. “In a country where the general people barely get necessary mental treatment, psychological counselling remains a mere dream for these people.”
IOM Deputy Chief of Mission (Development) Dimanche Sharon said a coordinated approach is needed for the reintegration of returning migrants, particularly those who were deported.
“People who are deported from any country are usually victimized by someone, in some cases exploited as well. When they return, they need support from their families and community, but are instead treated with almost a kind of xenophobia,” she added.
She further said the psychological support these migrants need should begin as soon as possible, in addition to financial support and accommodation facilities if necessary.
“Family members and people from the community can become involved and understand the psychological status of returning migrants to help reintegration,” she added.