Bangladeshi migrants face deportation, lack of jobs, food crisis

02 May 2020 10:42 AM
Thousands of Bangladeshi migrant workers are passing days in deep crisis abroad because they are facing forced repatriation, loss of jobs, limited access to foods and healthcare system amid the coronavirus pandemic around the world.

Migrant rights activists said that Bangladesh government was yet to take pragmatic steps to greatly help the country’s millions of migrant workers residing in distress at destination countries.

They  said that though about 2 crore Bangladeshi migrants, with documented and undocumented status, were passing their days in extreme crisis of food abroad but the government allocated Tk 8 crore as humanitarian support which was hardly any amount for them.

According to estimates of government officials,  recruiting agencies and migration experts, already several lakh of Bangladeshi migrants became jobless in Middle East, Europe and East Asian countries as a result of spread of COVID-19.

Recruiting agents leader Tipu Sultan told New Age that labour migration was passing through a grave crisis for the corona virus pandemic and the country’s recruiting agencies have previously incurred losses of over Tk 5,000 crore .

‘In the last 90 days, job visas of over 1.5 lakh personnel ,who were ready to fly, have already been cancelled and their migration became uncertain because of persistent lockdown and monetary recession in the destination countries,’ he said. .

Tipu Sultan, also president of Recruiting Agency Okyya Porisad, said that one lakh workers already returned home losing their jobs and more five lakh personnel might be forced to return home soon.

About 8,000 Bangladeshi undocumented migrants, who got stranded in Kuwait for deportation under a general amnesty, were passing their days in miserable conditions with inadequate foods.

Since April 11, those Bangladeshis have already been kept in different short-term labour camps in Manggab, Chebdi and Abdali areas in Kuwait city that have been shabby, unhealthy and susceptible to get them subjected to the COVID-19, said the victim migrants.

Raihan Shekh, one of the victims stranded in make-shift camp in Manggab in Kuwait City told New Age that these were over 600 Bangladeshis passing miserable days after taking out-passes beneath the general amnesty.

‘We are being given inadequate foods in such enclosed situation and we aren't permitted to bring food from outside,’ he said, adding that shortage of food and unhealthy living condition with only two toilets for them made lots of the personnel sick in the camps.

‘On Wednesday, one Bangladeshi worker in this camp tested COVID-19 positive and was sent to a hospital. Another five staff are kept isolated in the camp,’ he said.

In Saudi Arabia, about 50 % of 15 lakh undocumented Bangladeshi employees  became jobless due to pandemic of COVID-19 plus they were mostly moving into Jeddah, Makkah, Madinah, Khamis, Taif and Tabuk regions.

Those Bangladeshis, residing in the united states on so called free visa, were experiencing crisis of food or cash, said officials and activists.

Dhaka University professor of political science and RMMRU founding chair Tasneem Siddiqui said that Bangladeshi migrant staff who migrated to Middle Eastern countries with so called free visas are hit hard by losing their jobs because of lockdown imposed to avoid spread of coronavirus.

Many migrants would be forced to come back home in this changed situation, she said, suggesting that the federal government should create a particular fund from its income to support the migrant workers.

On Monday, Bangladesh Civil Society for Migrants, a network of 16 migrant rights organisation, submitted a memorandum to the United Nations secretary general highlighting the plight of the Bangladeshi migrants amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The BCSM co-chair Syed Saiful Haque told MODERN that they emailed the memorandum to the UN headquarters in New York and other relevant departments and requested the secretary general to ask to the destination countries to avoid sending back Bangladeshi migrant workers.

‘We are worried that some destination countries are putting strain on the countries of origin to get back the latter’s nationals who've been deemed to be in irregular status and those in detention and/or in prison,’ he said.

Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Programme chairman Shakirul Islam urged the federal government to announce a financial assistance programme for the families of migrant workers and returnees hard hit by the COVID-19 situation.

About 40 % of migrant workers are now living in hardship, following the current lockdown was imposed in lots of countries led them to either lose their jobs or devoid of been paid their regular salaries, he said.

‘But the families aren't qualified to receive inclusion in the ration card set of 50 lakh persons announced by the prime minister given that they do not fall in to the group of people.’

Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment ministry’s additional secretary Ahmed Munirus Saleheen told MODERN that  they government had taken various steps to handle the negative impact of coronavirus on the overseas labour market. The ministry was trying to estimate approximate number of migrant victims who could keep coming back home because of COVID-19, he said.

For influenced retuned migrants, the EWOE ministry has readied a fund of Tk 200 crore, he said, adding that that they had allocated over Tk 8 crore for humanitarians supports including foods and financial grants being provided through Bangladesh missions abroad.

The government has decided to recreate Bangladeshis who were in distress in a few countries, including Kuwait, he said.

On return home, the migrants could easily get loans on soft conditions to greatly help them rehabilitate in the society, he said.

According to BMET data, over 1.2 crore personnel have migrated to 170 countries plus they send remittances of $ 16 billion annually. Over 80 per cent of migrants were used in the center East and East Asian countries, said officials.