Around 67% migrants who involuntarily returned to Bangladesh became the victim of unpaid wages and 62% of these returnees left behind assets abroad amid the Covid-19 crisis, a research revealed on Wednesday.
During their stay abroad, around 27% of these returnees lost their jobs and 26% became partially employed due to the pandemic's impact, says the study conducted on 100 returnees from 11 countries during April-July last year.
Bangladesh Civil Society for Migrants (BCSM), and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) jointly carried out the research, and published their findings through an e-Book titled "The Other Face of Globalisation Covid-19, International Labour Migrants and Left-behind Families in Bangladesh."
The e-book – published at a dissemination webinar – shines light on the situation faced by Bangladeshi male and female labour migrants and members of the left-behind households amid the Covid-19 crisis.
The study further found that around 67% UAE returnees, 57% Saudi returnees, and 33% Malaysia returnees have experienced detention before their involuntary return from destination countries.
Addressing the webinar as the chief guest, advisor to the former caretaker government Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman said, "Wage theft is a human rights violation. The destination countries should introduce a mechanism allowing migrants who returned to receive their unpaid wages."
He also emphasised on ensuring a social safety net for the returnee migrants.
More than 4 lakh migrant Bangladeshis returned from abroad amid the pandemic, according to data from the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training.
BCSM's research followed a mixed method. Primary data includes a survey, in-depth interviews and case studies. It also carried out a survey on 200 households in 21 districts across Bangladesh through nine member organisations.
The Covid-19 crisis has exposed the migrants and their families to health, as well as financial vulnerabilities, the study said, adding that around 61% of the dependent households did not receive remittance during the survey period.
In the absence of regular remittance flow, the migrant households faced major challenges in meeting food expenditure. Borrowing money was around 54% of the family income sources during this period.
While the monthly household expenditure on average was Tk17,000 before the Covid-19 crisis, it became Tk7,300 during the survey. So, these families dropped around 57% of their expenditure.
BCSM's Chairman Dr CR Abrar, who also serves as the executive director of RMMRU, said, "The destination countries have used a mechanism to send back migrants following the outbreak of Covid-19. When migrants face a crisis, their left-behind family members also suffer."
"The spread of Covid-19 has again shown us the other face of globalisation in respect to labour migration. Destination countries have developed stimulus packages to face the Covid-19 crisis. However, migrants are mostly excluded from such packages, owing to their precarious work conditions."
RMMRU's Founding Chair Dr Tasneem Siddiqui presented the details of the e-book, which is based on the research.
Md Motahar Hossain, additional secretary at the Research and Policy Wing of Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment; Barrister Shameem Haider Patwary, MP; Prof Dr Imtiaz Hussain, Head of the Global Studies and Governance Programme at Independent University; and Shariful Hasan, Head of the BRAC Migration Programme, spoke at the event among others.