While governments, civil society organisations and industrialists from around the world are attending the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in Dhaka, some other groups have gathered on the outskirts of the capital at the same time to listen to the migrants in distress.
International Migrants Alliance (IMA) organised the programme Friday where around 150 grass-roots organisations and migrants gathered to speak out against this year's GFMD.
On their request, the Dhaka Tribune will not disclose the place where the programme is taking place. The IMA members were supposed to stage a protest in front of the Central Shaheed Minar on Friday but later arranged the discussion.
The IMA leaders claim that the GFMD is not a platform of the migrant people or refugees, rather of the governments, civil society members and trade bodies.
Since the formation of the GFMD in 2007, the forum never invited the migrants or refugees to listen to their experiences, the IMA leaders alleged.
According to the IMA, Bangladesh has 2.04 million citizens living and working abroad, with a rough estimate of 500,000 going overseas for work every year.
Documented are reports of abuse committed against the Bangladeshi migrants in the workplace and modern-day slavery (as characterised by unpaid labour, withheld documents and exploitation by recruitment agencies). In addition, refugee crises such as those in East Bengal and the Rohingyas add to the many problems confronting Bangladesh.
At the programme, the activists pointed that the GFMD does not focus on the migrant rights and there is no representation of the migrants in the forum. They alleged that their voices are not heard at the GFMD.
IMA Chairperson Eni Lestari said: “Every year we gather in this way to bring the grass-roots voices to the government. They do not solve the migrants’ problems like human trafficking or exploitation at workplaces.”
Some migrants’ family members and trafficking victims were also present at the IMA event who described the hassles they had faced at different times while trying to deal with the embassy or government officials.
Monica Emiru, executive director of National Association of Women's Organisation in Uganda, said: “In Africa, we have the same problems you are facing here in Bangladesh. We all are human beings, we all have rights; it does not matter who we are, but it is our duty to push the government to ensure workers’ rights and migrants rights in every country. It does not matter where people move to choose a better life.
“Every human being should be treated with dignity.”
Hsiao Chaan Hsia from Taiwan's TransAsia Sisters Association said: “My country never allows any Bangladeshi to enter the country and this is one example how states are discriminating people from the poor country.
“I am here to talk against the GFMD. The GFMD talks about migration and development. But what kind of development is it? Whose development? All the stories about development they are saying, we all know that this development is not for the people from the working class, or middle class or poor people.”
Among others, Marta Benavides from El Salvador and Tenaganita Malaysia's Director Glorene Das were also present who called for international solidarity for the welfare of the migrant workers.