Addressing the woes of expat workers
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Sunday said a handful of countries is planning to deport undocumented Bangladeshis back home. The minister issued the statement after an inter-ministerial meeting at the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment in the capital.
However, bringing back so many undocumented Bangladeshis in these tough times is a difficult task indeed. Hundreds of Bangladeshis were sent back home from different countries due to various reasons such as absence of valid documents, paucity of jobs and overstay. If a person stays in a country without any valid job permit, he or she will be arrested by police and sent back home. Drives against illegal immigrants had been going on in different countries for the last few years. Bangladeshis had gone to various countries since 1976 in search of greener pastures. Armed with adequate skills many got suitable jobs and changed their lot.
Many others failed to do so and returned to their home pauperized.
About one-third of the immigrants found their employment in Saudi Arabia alone. The remittances sent by Bangladeshi expatriates contributed immensely to the economy of the country over the past few years. Whatever, it is encouraging to note that the government wants to resolve the matter on a case by case basis.
But the situation is now wobbly due to the outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic. The silver lining is that the countries sheltering undocumented Bangladeshi expatriates are not unsympathetic to them due to good relations with Bangladesh. None can guarantee the continuity of stable remittance inflow to the country. In the past Malaysia deported a huge number of undocumented Bangladeshi workers triggering concern among the near and dears of the victims.
Since unemployment problem is becoming acute in our country - there are reasons to be worried about the sufferings of Bangladeshi migrants abroad. The government should take pragmatic measures to solve the problems of expatriate workers.
Reintegration programme should be launched for the returning workers to help them lead a normal life. The relevant authorities should also ensure sustainable labour migration to check such unsuccessful migration. The situation warrants a well thought-out policy.
Most importantly, during a global disaster period as now, the government must attempt to concentrate its focus to prevent the pandemic outbreak and simultaneously diplomatically resolve the issue with other countries through buying a little more time, until the health crisis is over.