52% of the returnees said they need financial aid on an emergency basis
Brac revealed that 87% of the country's returnee migrants are struggling without any source of income in their changed circumstances amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Bangladesh-based international development organization on Friday disclosed the figures from a survey titled “The Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on the Life and Livelihoods of Returnee Migrants”, reports UNB.
More tellingly, 52% of the returnees said they need financial aid on an emergency basis, said Shariful Islam, head of Brac's migration programme in a virtual meeting with journalists where the findings of a Brac survey were disclosed.
Brac, over mobile phone, conducted the survey among 558 immigrant workers, who have returned home from different countries.
A 20-member Brac team conducted the survey among the returnees from Dhaka, Tangail, Munshiganj, Shariatpur, Narsingdi, Sylhet, Sunamganj, Cumilla, Noakhali, Sirajganj, Rangpur, Khulna, and Jashore districts.
Among the survey respondents, 45% immigrant workers returned from Saudi Arab, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and Kuwait in the Middle East while the other 65% immigrant workers returned from Malaysia, Singapore, Itali, The Maldives and other countries.
Additionally, 86% of the survey respondents returned home in March.
Returnees' financial situation
According to the survey, 34% of the returnees said they have no savings at all, while 19% of them said they can afford two months' living with the savings they have.
Among the total survey respondents, 33% said they can afford living three months and a bit more with their savings, while 10% informed that they have had to borrow money already to meet the daily needs.
However, 14% of the survey respondents refrained from disclosing information about their savings.
Future plan of the returnees
Among the home returnees, 84% confirmed that they have not yet planned for any livelihood while 6% of them said that they are planning to go abroad again, said Brac survey.
Rest of the 10% of the survey attendants said they have been planning to get involved in agriculture-based small business, grocery shops or something else, Shariful Islam said.
Why did immigrant workers return home during Covid-19 pandemic?
Among the survey respondents, 40% said they were forced to come back home for coronavirus pandemic, 35% said they returned in holidays while 18 % of them said they came home for family affairs.
Meanwhile, 7% of the participants said their homecoming had no relation with Covid-19, the Brac survey reveals.
Did the returnees maintain 14-day home quarantine?
When asked about 14-day mandatory quarantine, 84 % of the survey respondents said they maintained it accordingly, 14 % said they could not maintain 14-day quarantine while 2% said they were in one-week quarantine.
According to Brac survey, 74% of returnees informed that they have been living in worry, mental pressure, and fear.
Shariful Islam told UNB that 12 Brac counsellors have provided socio-mental services to the returnee immigrant workers.
How did their relatives greet them?
According to Brac survey, 29% of the attendants informed that their relatives, neighbours did not take it normally as well as showed no attitudes of help.
Meanwhile, 71% of the returnees said their own families played role in helping them.
Did returnees get government help during pandemic?
The Brac survey revealed that 91% of the returnees received no help from government or private organization.
The rest 9% survey respondents said they received help from government and private institutions but it was very low.
Brac’s representative Shariful Islam said: “Many people may return home after losing their jobs in the future and the government has announced easy loans for them.”
Government alone is not responsible to stand by the returning immigrant workers, non-government organisations should also work in concerted way, Shariful added.
He also said that immigrant workers sent TK9,500 crore in the first 19 days of May for Eid-ul-Fitr.
Since January of this year, immigrant workers sent Tk55,000 crore, said Shariful adding that it is time to stand by the immigrant workers who have returned already as well as staying abroad right now.
Five recommendations by Brac to resolve the crisis:
· More Inclusive and supportive environment should be ensured for the returnees by the cumulative efforts of the government, civil society organizations, private sectors and local communities instead of stigmatization and discrimination which can negatively impact the ability of migrants to integrate into the society.
· Government should extend social protection coverage and safety net programmes either in the form of cash or in-kind goods and services to smooth consumption and prevent falls into the poverty.
· Sustainable reintegration programme including psycho-social support should be launched for the returnees assessing their short- and long-term vulnerabilities and making easily accessible customized loan products to upon return of expatriate workers for engaging them into the income generating activities
· Government should start negotiation with the destination countries, to stop forced return of the expatriate workers during the time of Covid-19; and through the diplomatic initiatives, visa and work permit of the returnees should be extended for them who are unable to fly back to workplace because of the travel restriction.
· Government should increase budget allocation for the expatriates' welfare and overseas employment ministry to ensure the welfare of the migrants and their family members and emphasize their inclusion into the government programme and policies in responding to the shock of Covid-19 pandemic.