Illegal migration from Bangladesh has risen exponentially over the past few years. The exodus has been fuelled by lucrative promises by illegal human traffickers.
The International Organisation for Migration is working to inform aspiring migrants on the hazards of illegal migration.
Sarat Dash, the chief of mission for IOM Bangladesh, sat down with the Dhaka Tribune to discuss the lure of illegal migration and what the IOM is doing to combat it.
Can you explain how migration takes place?
A person deciding to move to another region for a specific purpose initiates the process of migration. The decision is based on two factors.
Personal assessment of competency and skill to see whether they will fetch a greater return abroad
Available working opportunity abroad.
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The entire process is based on demand and supply. There are also other factors which influence the individual to make the decision to migrate. The key is Information, which is provided in formal or informal manners. The form of information is pivotal in how they plan on migrating.
Why do they opt for illegal migration?
Most prospective Bangladeshi migrants are relatively unaware of migration details. The aspiring migrants are swayed by their neighbours or friends who are successful abroad or know people who have attained financial success overseas.
A belief works here, that they can also achieve the same success given the opportunity.
Local governments, NGOs and UN organisations are providing a lot of information to the migrants.
But there are also unscrupulous syndicates or businesses which also provide different information packages. Because the traffickers are better at selling their deceptive ploys and most prospective migrants are not as well-informed, regular migration channels suffer. Besides, everyone wants the shortcut to happiness.
Can you describe the irregular channels?
Most migrants who decide to go via irregular channels do so on the basis of incomplete or incorrect information.
Their journey impacts them in many ways.
They are being affected physically. Because the journey involves miles of walking under the sun in dangerous territory. Dehydration and malnourishment are very likely. The boat journey is also arduous. There is always the risk of capsizing.
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The psychological impact of losing money and property is also tremendous.
The loss of social dignity is another crippling impact. Nobody wants to come back home a failed immigrant. Everyone wants to be successful, and hence venture out for the risk.
What is the IOM doing to curb this?
IOM is focusing in three areas to reduce this irregular migration. We provide technical assistance to the government in establishing information centre for the migrants.
We also work to strengthen the capacity of DEMOs (District Employment and Manpower Office) at the local level. We work in other areas with the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment in database development, networking and training.
The IOM is also campaigning to create awareness about migration. We provide training to local religious leaders, members and leaders of the local government, school teachers, since they have some influence over the village community. We train them so that they convey positive messages to people to make them aware of safe migration.
How does the cost of migrating link to irregular migration?
The cost of migration should be regulated to avoid irregular migration. At the same time, we need to enhance the skill set of the migrants. These two factors are adversely affecting the migrant workers’ lives which later force them to turn to irregular migration.
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The migrants pay huge amount of money for regular migration. But the employment opportunities are not as financially rewarding, because their skills are not as developed. They spend years trying to recoup their investment, and then attempt to make a profit on it. They feel ashamed to come back even when their visa expires. It leaves them only one path, irregular migration is the only thing open to them.
How can we improve the job opportunities of migrants abroad?
It is very important to prepare schemes to develop the skills of migrants. So, they can bargain for higher wages in the job market which may ensure a quick return of their money.
It is also important to dispel the myth about migration. The real picture of the migration journey need to be understood by every aspiring migrant. They should know the benefits and the costs to make the decision.
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The government encourages migration because a lot of remittance is earned from this sector. There are plans to ensure migration is effectively governed or managed. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has issued a directive to subsidise the sector and to reduce the fees of migrant workers to encourage remittance.
Most importantly, law enforcement agencies need to be more vigilant about irregular migration.