Despite their significant contribution to the country’s economy, migrant workers feel neglected and not being properly taken care of when they are in need of help.
They said a large number of them face abuse and financial loss while many suffer injuries and deaths, but there are no adequate measures taken by the government for their protection.
They ventilated their frustrations at a national dialogue titled “Migrants’ Budget” organised by Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program (OKUP), a grassroots NGO, in the capital’s Cirdap auditorium yesterday.
“I was in Jordan for a year and seven months. For excessive workload and tortures, I got sick. I was then deported home unpaid for 11 months,” said Mosammat Shefali, 35, of Fatullah.
Since returning home over a year back, she has been struggling with her worsening health condition. In February this year, she appealed to the Wage Earners’ Welfare Board for financial help for uterus surgery that would require at least Tk 2 lakh.
“I am yet to receive any response,” said a crying Shefali at the dialogue attended by over 300 migrant workers, and representatives of NGOs and government officials.
Mashiul Alam of Sonargaon in Narayanganj, who worked in Saudi Arabia for 22 years, said after returning home recently he tried to get a loan from the Probashi Kallyan Bank for setting up a small business.
“But I failed, because it [process] is heavily complicated,” he said.
Labour migration experts say high migration cost, which is Tk 3 lakh to Tk 12 lakh based on countries, and low wages for Bangladeshi migrants, are major factors why they face so many troubles in the migration cycle.
It takes three to four years for many to recover the cost, while many return home injured and penniless, and they find it difficult to start a new life back home, they said.
The government too does not have any reintegration programme to help the returnees start new income-generating ventures, experts said.
“Family of a dead migrant gets a compensation of only Tk 3 lakh, which is negligible,” said Sumayia Islam, director of Bangladesh Ovibashi Mohila Sramik Association (Bomsa).
Shakirul Islam, executive director of OKUP, in a keynote presentation said around one crore Bangladeshi migrants work abroad and send home annually $ 15 billion a year, which is about eight percent of the country’s GDP.
Interestingly, the budgetary allocation for the Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry is 0.17 percent, he said.
Migration expert Prof CR Abrar of Dhaka University said it is sad that the Wage Earners’ Welfare Fund, which is made up of migrants’ money, is used for salary and other cost of the labour attaches.
He demanded that the government increase migrants’ budget from 0.17 percent to at least 2 percent of national budget to ensure all kinds of welfare both at home and abroad.
Syed Saiful Haque, chairman of WARBE Development Foundation, demanded that the government take up an insurance scheme for the migrants’ social protection.
Noor Jahan Begum, MP assured she would speak in the parliament to enhance budget for protecting migrant rights.