Many of the returnee migrants are from the poorest segment of wealth index and returned empty handed, calling for programmes like debt relief and special social protection.
Or, their informal loans can be converted to official ones and the expatriates' incomes need to be connected to formal financial services, concludes the iSocial study on returnee migrants.
Setting the action agenda for the government, the survey says post-pandemic action agenda must prioritise both reintegration and remigration, which must be designed differently from the one for fresh aspirants.
Around 100,000 aspirant migrants have been stranded in Bangladesh for departure to countries of destination due to pandemic-induced flight restrictions. Many of them completed the pre-departure process and paid money to the recruiting agencies after borrowing from various sources.
"Now they are facing uncertainty over recovery of fees/payment already paid," says the study that collected data from 616 migrants who came home since after January and got stuck.
The Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment has released 50% of the payment to recruiting agencies, who processed migration of 100,000 aspirant migrants. "However, it is not clear whether the aspirant migrants will be compensated or not," it doubts.
The study, supported by ILO Bangladesh and Swiss aid agency SDC, summarised the government's emergency help for migrant returnees – like cash transfer of Tk5,000 per head at the airport and Tk200 crore low-interest fund.
But more need to be done, it points out, suggesting that an emergency management system be developed on a permanent basis in countries of destination with allocation of more resources to Bangladesh missions abroad to ensure improved service delivery to migrant workers.
"We should have a comprehensive service delivery platform, where every service delivery is recorded for each of the migrants who have smart cards. This will allow identifying migrants who need various emergency supports," says Dr Ananya Raihan, chief executive officer of iSocial.
A comprehensive emergency management system can be deployed within a short period of time, he adds.
Remittances boost balance of payment and foreign exchange reserves that maintain macroeconomic stability, while overseas jobs reduce pressure on management of domestic employment, Dr Raihan points out.
"We need to invest a tangible portion of their contribution towards better provisioning of their quality life," he says.
The economist refers to resource constraints and inadequate budget for the expatriate welfare ministry. "The financial services are inadequate and inaccessible to migrant workers. We are not sure whether the Probashi Kallyan Bank is capable of disbursing the stimulus package for the sector," he says, pressing the need for digital financial services providing workers with seamless access to savings, credit and insurance services.
"The 8th Five Year plan envisages a paradigm shift in the sector and we would like to see that is happening," the iSocial CEO concludes.
The expatriates welfare ministry is working to enlist all returnee migrants to devise programmes for their rehabilitation. The government has urged the GCC countries to ensure that migrant workers, who got stuck after coming home on leave, get their due wages and other facilities during the COVID-19 lockdown.
For those who are currently unemployed after return and in debt burden, a Tk200 crore fund has been allocated from Wage Earners Welfare Board to Probashi Kallyan Bank to disburse among migrants without collateral and at 4% interest.
"But the bank has no branch in all districts, making it difficult for migrants in dire need for cash to access to the fund," says Shariful Islam Hasan, head of Brac's migration programme.
On an average 7 lakh to 8 lakh Bangladeshis go abroad to work every year, but this year only 2 lakh could travel abroad so far. Moreover, 3,60,000 workers returned home so far this year before and during the pandemic.
Making alternative arrangements for this huge number of people is a prime need now. At the same time, action plan is needed for creating new skills like caregiver to respond to diversified demands in overseas job market, Hasan feels.
"Our missions broad need to be more proactive to help roughly 1 crore expatriates so that they can survive any shock in the countries they work in," he adds.