IT IS worrying that more than 10 million migrant workers and diaspora community members, whose remittances are a mainstay of the national economy, often face trouble and harassment at home and in destination countries. The government, which is full of heartening words, has hardly taken any effective action to this end. Migration experts at a workshop in Dhaka on Monday, therefore, rightly called on the government to shore up issues to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration and to protect rights of the migrants that are routinely violated in destination countries. Migrant workers’ plight and rights appear to continue to be ignored by the government. Reports on the abuse of migrant workers at home by recruiting agencies and in destination countries by employers are disturbingly rampant. Bangladesh, as Wage Earners’ Welfare Board statistics say, has received 11 migrant workers dead on an average every day in the past few years while an increased number of workers returned home empty-handed, abused and harassed.
More than 100,000 migrant workers, according to studies, came back home in 2019 having faced legal or other problems and harassment amidst growing uncertainties for them in host countries. Even after having valid documents, many workers are forced to come back home. Saudi Arabia alone deported about 30,000 Bangladeshis in 2019 although many of them had valid work permits. Many of them, especially women, came back home enduring physical abuse and sexual violence. Thousands of undocumented workers in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia now live in fear of arrest and deportation. The government does not, moreover, have any mechanism to use the skills that the migrants learnt abroad as efforts for their reintegration exist in paper only. Given such a bleak picture of the rights of migrant workers and diaspora community members, the government should deal with the issue in view of the international nature of the problem. The government should take up its concern with international forums and should sensitise the labour wings of Bangladesh missions in destination countries to help workers in crisis. For a smooth and orderly migration, the government should also try to have in place binding bilateral agreements with destination countries so that it can effectively deal with issues whenever there is violation of migrant worker rights.
The government must, under the circumstances, put in more efforts to ensure an orderly migration process from the very onset of the migration process at home and negotiate with destination countries so as to stop arrest, torture and deportation. The government must also have programmes to reintegrate migrant workers who return and use their skills.