About 87 per cent of migrants who have recently returned to Bangladesh from abroad amid the pandemic have no earning source, according to a survey report of BRAC revealed on Friday.
The returnees became either dependent on the family members’ income or they had to depend on small agricultural incomes to survive, said findings of the survey on ‘The Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on the Life and Livelihoods of Returnee Migrants.’
About 33 per cent respondents said that they could not survive more than three months with their current savings while 52 per cent said that they were in dire need of financial assistance to ensure survival.
The survey was conducted on 13 migration-prone districts — Dhaka, Munshigonj, Shariatpur, Tangail, Narshingdi, Cumilla, Noakhali, Sylhet, Sunamganj, Sirajganj, Rangur, Jashore and Khulna.
The interviews covered a total of 558 returnee migrants who came back to Bangladesh between January and March 2020.
Eighty six per cent respondents came back in March 2020. Among them 62 per cent returned in the first two weeks of March.
Seventy four per cent mentioned that they were depressed and under stress, anxiety, fear while rest 26 per cent said they have no issues regarding their mental health.
The study recommended for more Inclusive and supportive environment to be ensured for the returnees by the cumulative efforts of the government, civil society organisations, private sectors and local communities.
The government should extend social protection coverage and safety net programmes either in the form of cash or in kind to save them from falling into poverty.
‘Sustainable reintegration programme including psycho-social support should be launched for the returnees addressing their short- and long-term vulnerabilities and making easily accessible customised loan available to expatriate workers to engage them in income generating activities,’ the report proposed.
It further said, ‘Bangladesh government should start negotiation with the destination countries to stop forced return of 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 the workplace because of travel restrictions.’
The government should increase budget allocation for the expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment ministry to ensure the welfare of migrants and their family members and emphasise their inclusion into the government programme and policies in response to the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic.
BRAC migration programme head Shariful Hasan said that many workers continued to come back after losing their jobs abroad.
The government and non-government organisations should jointly stand by the returnee migrants, he said.
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