- Two Bangladeshi expats returned this week with mental disorders
- 11 Bangladeshi workers came back with mental illness last month
- Brac has provided around 3,000 returnees with psychosocial counselling during the pandemic
The number of migrants returning with severe mental illness has been increasing in recent times, with 11 such Bangladeshis coming back – mostly from Middle Eastern countries – in October alone.
Most of the returnees are female domestic workers.
The grim picture came to the fore afresh after two migrants joined the list this week.
Ambia Khatun, 34, from Jordan, and Md Eianur Rahman, 35, from Dubai, arrived at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka this week.
Ambia went to Jordan in July last year through a recruiting agency, MH Trade International.
On Sunday, after noticing her uncontrolled movement inside the airport, armed policemen informed the expatriate welfare desk and she was later taken to the Brac Learning Centre for counselling.
Another expatriate, Eianur who had travelled to Dubai via India, arrived at the airport at around 7:30am on Monday and was taken to the Brac Learning Centre as well.
Ambia hails from Ishwardi in Pabna while Eianur is from Sarsha upazila of Jashore. Their families have been contacted by the expatriate welfare desk set up by the expatriates' welfare and overseas employment ministry.
Shariful Hasan, head of the Brac Migration Programme, said, in the last month alone, 11 Bangladeshi workers, including 10 female domestic workers, returned home with severe mental disorders.
With the help of the expatriate welfare desk and the airport police, Brac has so far located the families of 63 workers, including 58 women, who have returned home in the last two years with mental health problems and handed them over to their dear ones.
"We have provided at least 3,000 expatriates with psychosocial counselling during the Covid-19 pandemic," said Shariful Hasan.
"We should prioritise the mental health issues of the returnees. The government and the non-governmental organisations should do this jointly," he added.
Kamal Uddin Ahmed Chowdhury, an associate professor of Clinical Psychology at the University Dhaka, recently told The Business Standard, "Although many workers have been able to return home after being tortured, they have suffered speech loss. Now, it is a challenge to bring them back to a normal life."
"If expat workers get counselling before they break down psychologically, better enterprises and activities can be obtained from them. In this case, it is necessary for the government to undertake special initiatives as soon as possible," he added.
According to data available with Brac, the bodies of 410 women workers have arrived in the country in the last four years from abroad. Sixty-seven of the women had committed suicide.
Brac says, outside this number, many workers are buried abroad so their data is not available with the organisation.
Analysis of Brac's statistics shows that the number of suicide incidents is increasing every year.
In 2016, three workers committed suicide but the number rose to 12 in 2017, 23 in 2018 and 29 in 2019. Most of them were domestic workers.