Manpower – Bangladesh
- Around 2,25,582 migrant workers have returned home from 29 countries, mostly from Middle East, between 1 April and 24 October this year
- The highest number of returnees came from Saudi Arabia – 60,969
- The second highest is from the UAE – 59,920
The number of jobless migrant returnees has been increasing at an alarming rate since the beginning of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
According to the expatriate welfare desk of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, around 2,25,582 migrant workers have returned home from 29 countries – mostly from the Middle East – between 1 April and 24 October this year after losing their jobs.
In the last week, the number of returnees was over 15,000.
According to the expatriate welfare desk's data, the highest number of returnees, 60,969, came from Saudi Arabia. The returnees said that they came home after losing their jobs and some had been in prison in the destination country.
Of the total returnees from Saudi Arabia, 10,503 were women.
The second highest number of migrants, around 59,920, returned from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The UAE returnees said their employers had sent them back home with an assurance they would be allowed to go back to the country again after the pandemic situation is resolved.
Shameem Ahemd Chowdhury Noman, secretary general of Bangladesh International Recruiting Agencies, said, "Among the returnees many were undocumented. So, they should not be counted among the Covid-19 hit returnees."
"Still the number of returnees is not at an alarming level. Because, every year many return for various reasons but there is no data about them," he added.
Saying that some experts have predicted the number of returnees would be 10 lakh due to the pandemic, he said, "But, I do not think that is going to happen."
From other destinations for migrant workers: 23,118 returned from Qatar, 13,486 from Oman, 12,159 from the Maldives, 10,893 from Kuwait, 10,821 from Malaysia, 8,892 from Iraq, and 6,699 from Lebanon.
Among the returnees, 25,436 were women.
The migrant workers, who returned home amid the pandemic, are getting loans at a 4% interest rate from the Tk200 crore fund of Wage Earners' Welfare Board for their rehabilitation. Returnee expatriates and families of migrant workers who died abroad amid the pandemic can avail the loan.
Probashi Kallyan Bank started loan disbursement from the Tk200 crore fund on 15 July. A returnee can borrow Tk1-5 lakh from the fund to invest in any of 30 selected sectors including: agriculture, fisheries, poultry, livestock, and agriculture.
Moreover, there is another big fund worth Tk500 crore for them from the government-declared stimulus package. But, the migrant returnees alleged that the process of getting a loan is very complicated.
Migration experts say the fund is insufficient to support migrant workers who are in a vulnerable position.
Professor Taneem Siddiqui, founder chair of the Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit, recently told The Business Standard, "Tk700 crore is not sufficient for the returnees. Earlier, we urged the government to allocate a minimum of Tk2,000 crore."