More than 1,27,000 migrant workers have so far returned and many are waiting to return to Bangladesh from different countries during the ongoing global COVID-19 outbreak.
Labour rights activists and trade union leaders also estimated that over 4.6 lakh workers could not go abroad even after getting visas during the outbreak.
They, at a webinar organised by the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies, urged the government to start sustainable reintegration of the returnee migrants and demanded a government move to ensure their rights and dignity abroad.
Expatriate welfare ministry additional secretary Md Shahidul Alam said that between April 1 and September 12, around 1,27,000 migrant workers returned home from different countries, mostly from Middle East.
BRAC head of migration programme Shariful Hasan in his keynote paper said that around 2-2.5 lakh migrants might return home in the next two months while more than 3 lakh would not be able to go abroad during the time.
He said that many more workers had lost their jobs due to coronavirus pandemic and were waiting to return home when they would get flights.
A large number of migrants are returning home at a time when many local companies have terminated their employees and job opportunities have reduced in the country, he said.
Labour rights organisation BILS organised the discussion titled ‘Covid-19 Impact on Migration and Migrant Workers in Bangladesh: Reintegration and Safe Return to Work (home and aboard)’.
BILS chairman Habibur Rahman Siraj presided over the event while its secretary general Nazrul Islam Khan moderated it.
CR Abrar, executive director of the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit, said that many workers were exploited by brokers and employers abroad during the coronavirus pandemic.
‘Many migrants returned home empty handed from jails abroad over violation of COVID-19 rules of the respective country,’ he said.
He urged the government to create opportunities for the COVID-19-affected migrants in home or abroad and to create a database of migrants.
Ayub Ali, a returnee migrant worker living in Manikganj, alleged that he was not given low-interest loans from Probashi Kallyan Bank despite repeated try.
Shahidul Alam said that the government was searching for new markets, reforming training centres to develop workers’ skills and working to reduce migration costs.
Labour leaders Wajedul Islam Khan and Razequzzaman Ratan, Manusher Jonno Foundation director Rina Roy, IOM migration governance head in Bangladesh Shahreen Munir and ILO migration project chief technical adviser in Dhaka Laetitia Weibel, among others, spoke.
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