Dialogue on Migration, Diaspora, Remittance and Development Looking ahead of GFMD 2016

27 October, 2016;BURO Bangladesh Conference Hall, Dhaka.

 

Speakers at a Dialogue on ‘Migration, Diaspora, Remittance and Development: Looking ahead of GFMD 2016’ held in Dhaka on 27 October 2016 underscored the need for an effective engagement of the Diasporas in the development of their countries of origin. They at the same time said, diasporas need to be engaged with the local governments and the public sector in their destination countries and influence the policies towards migrants. They also emphasized the need for mapping of the diasporas in the host countries. Bangladeshi missions abroad can play a significant role in this regard they said. They called upon the government to ensure the voting rights of the diaspora and migrant communities and create a friendly environment to attract diaspora investment. The Dialogue jointly organised by INAFI, BASUG and BURO Bangladesh and under the platform of Bangladesh Civil Society Coordination Committee (BCSCC) of GFMD 2016 was held at the auditorium of BURO Bangladesh. The Dialogue is a series of the programs being organised by different organisations in the face of the forthcoming Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) which will be held in Dhaka on 8-12 December. It may be mentioned that GFMD is a voluntary Inter-Governmental non-binding and informal consultative process open to all state members and observers of the United Nations where Governments can share their national, regional and global experiences in Migration and Development. Currently, Bangladesh is the Chair of GFMD. Having GFMD event in mind, the civil society organizations/NGOs that work on migration, human rights and remittance formed a National Coordination Committee for GFMD 2016, named as Bangladesh Civil Society Coordination Committee (BCSCC) to accelerate the participation of CSOs and bringing very strategic and pertinent issues to bring on the discussion table. BASUG International is a member of the International Steering Committee (ISC) of GFMD and BASUG Bangladesh is a core member of BCSCC.

 

Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare & Overseas Employment, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Mr. Jabed Ahmed was present at the dialogue as chief guest while Mr. Mr. Emranul Huq Chowdhury, Chief Executive of Uddipon presided. Celebrated media personality, Mr. Muhammd Jahangir moderated the dialogue. The dialogue was addressed by Mr. Bikash Chowdhury Barua, Chairman of BASUG, Mr. Atiqun Nabi, Executive Director of INAFI, Professor Abrar Chowdhury, Chairperson of BCSCC, Mr. Saiful Islam, Chairman of WARBE Foundation, Md. Sirajul Islam, Director, Special Program of BURO Bangladesh and Mr. Hassan Imam, Programme Head, Migration Programme of BRAC.

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The dialogue started with the opening remarks from Mr. Bikash Chowdhury Barua, Chairman, BASUG International. In his speech he shared BASUG’s long term experience of continuously working with and for the Diaspora community and its engagement with GFMD since its start in 2007. He also deplored the attitude of many western governments including the Dutch government towards the migrant communities and the migrants organisations and not engaging them in the development process. Mr. Atiqun Nabi, Executive Director of INAFI presented the key note paper which detailed the theme of the dialogue.

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Panel discussion:

Prof. Chowdhury Abrar, Chair Person, BCSCC:

  • Initiative has to be taken to ensure effective engagement from all related stakeholder to look into this sector as well as to maintain the upward flow of remittance.
  • A mapping must be done to develop database of the Bangladeshi diaspora communities all over the world.
  • For diaspora’s part, the most important support they can provide to the country of their origin is, if they can become involved in the local government/ public sector of their destination countries and influence the policies towards the migrants’.
  • Involvement of the embassies is very important
  • We can learn from the examples of the knowledge based diaspora communities of other countries.
  • Initiative is required to encourage the core development policies, matching grants, etc. towards migrants’ rights.
  • Separate and small contributions through remittances have to be complied for community development.
  • Wage Earners’ welfare fund should be kept separate. Advocacy is required with related stakeholders accordingly. It must be check before the law is established against this. BASUG along with other diaspora organizations can play an important role here. BCSCC is also continuously following the issue through observation.

Syed Saiful Haque, Chairman, WARBE Foundation:

  • Migrants support their country of origin not only through sending remittances but also through bringing back skills, education as well as through investment.
  • Initiative should be taken to create database of the migrants’ and investment made by them to trail how remittance is impacting the means of development.
  • Government advocacy is necessary to establish returnee migrants’ center, diaspora center which will provide one stop service.
  • Voting rights for the migrants and diaspora – strong advocacy needed. The ministry has to take initiatives.
  • There are many such cases that, the assets of the Bangladeshi Diasporas in the country are being ousted by the local influential people.
  • There are many who want to come back to Bangladesh and invest. However, lack of enabling environment is discouraging them to do so.

Md. Sirajul Islam, Director, Special Programme, BURO Bangladesh:

  • Political disparities in the diaspora community are very common which is not expected.
  • It has become a tradition that, one people from a family will go abroad and he/she will take other family members. There are villages where, at least one person from every single household is living abroad. There are suburbs where there is no one living in most of the houses and all the members are living abroad. In most of the cases, the remittances from diaspora as well as the migrants are invested or spent on unproductive activities like building luxurious houses.
  • BURO Bangladesh has programs to influence the use of remittance in productive purposes.
  • There is another programme of BURO to provide loan for the migrant families.
  • There are many people who have to sell their assets to arrange money for going to abroad. We are thinking of introducing new programme offering loan to potential migrants, so that after going to abroad he/she can repay in installment.

Mr. Hassan Imam, Programme Head, Migration Programme, BRAC

  • The total number of diaspora people around the world is 250 million, which is 3.5 % of the total population of the world. In 2015 the amount of total global remittance was $601 billion, of which $441 billion came to the developing countries.
  • In a country, the role of remittance is more significant than that of development assistance.
  • In 2015 the remittance flow in Bangladesh was $15 billion which is almost 10% of the total GDP. This remittance is mostly used in consumption, building and repairing houses, repaying loans etc.
  • Attention is needed in investment opportunity creation
  • Remittance transfer is still a challenge: legally the cost is 8%. So people look for illegal ways to transfer money.
  • Easy structural procedure for remittance transfer has to be introduced in the rural areas. Government as well as private sector intervention is needed.
  • BRAC has programme for proper utilization of the remittances which include education for the migrants’ families.

Recommendations:

  • Government awareness building programs for eliminating the informal channels of remittance transfer.
  • Government policy has to be placed for reintegration of the returnee migrants and productive utilization of remittances, safe migration, remittance transfer, etc.

Open Discussion:

  • Encouragement / Motivation for the diaspora community is necessary on how they can invest in the country, how to transfer money safely.
  • Productive utilization of remittance has to be ensured.
  • Ministry should take initiative for database of the diaspora as well as returnee migrants.
  • Remittance flow of $15 billion came from 10 million people. However, Sri Lanka is receiving much more amount of remittances from lesser number of Diaspora. So we have to pay attention on how this $15 billion can be raised.
  • Skill development is important for developing quality migrants.

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