Return of normalcy their only hope



At least 78,043 Bangladeshi workers returned home from 26 countries since April amid the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, according to statistics of the expatriates’ welfare ministry.

Of them, 44,695 returned from nine countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Malaysia, the Maldives and Iraq, as they either lost their jobs or there was no prospect of getting work. 

Many of them were sent back by their employers who promised to rehire them once normalcy returns, said the ministry which shared the data with the media yesterday.

It was prepared based on information collected from the returnees between April 1 and August 22 by the Expatriates’ Welfare Desk that the ministry set up at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. The returnees include 4,732 female workers.

The highest number of workers — 25,653 — returned from the UAE followed by 15,389 from Saudi Arabia.

Most of the returnees from the UAE mentioned that they were sent back by their employers or companies that promised to hire them again once the situation becomes normal. The others said they came back on vacation. 

On the other hand, the majority of the returnees from Saudi Arabia came back with “out-pass” after serving jail terms for various offences, the ministry said.

Besides, 7,329 migrant workers came back from Kuwait. Most of them returned under a general amnesty programme after they became undocumented, it added.

Also, 2,754 workers came back from seven countries, including Singapore, South Korea, Jordan, Japan, and Mauritius following the expiry of their job contracts.

The reasons for the return of 3,095 workers were not mentioned.

According to the ministry data, the authorities in Italy denied 151 Bangladeshi workers entry to that country on suspicion that they might have been infected with Covid-19. They had left for Italy on July 6.

Upon their return, they were kept in institutional quarantine under the supervision of Bangladesh Army.

Addressing a programme at his ministry yesterday, Expatriates’ Welfare Minister Imran Ahmad urged all concerned to create job opportunities for the returnees in the country.

He mentioned that training is being given to migrant workers with an aim to send them abroad, focusing on the changing demands in the post-Covid international labour market, according to a press release of the ministry.

The government is now working to send more workers abroad from the country’s less-developed areas, he added.

There are more than one crore Bangladeshi workers in 160 countries, according to government officials.

The majority of them are employed as low-paid workers in Middle East countries, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, and Lebanon, and also in Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and Singapore.

Migrant workers sent home more than $18 billion in fiscal 2019-2020, shows Bangladesh Bank data.

Their contribution is considered as one of the key pillars of the country’s economy.

Following the coronavirus outbreak, thousands of Bangladeshi migrant workers faced economic hardship because of job losses in the host countries.

For them, the government came up with immediate food and medical support involving Tk 11 crore which were distributed through Bangladesh missions abroad.

Besides, expatriates’ welfare ministry created a Tk 200-crore fund for giving soft loans to returnees and the family members of those who died from Covid-19 abroad for their economic reintegration. The Probashi Kallyan Bank has been disbursing the loans from last month.

Also, the government announced a separate loan package of Tk 500 crore for the expatriates who lost jobs amid the pandemic.

 





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