- Inadequate database a bar to BMET sector
- Awareness-building a major issue for safe migration
- Returnees not interested in taking loans
A concerted effort is needed to ensure sustainable migration, especially when it comes to the reintegration of affected migrants in the wake of Covid-19, speakers said at a programme on Sunday.
They observed that awareness-building, proper data management, ensuring training, etc., are the key challenges to sustainable migration.
The observation came at an event titled "National Level Stakeholder Consultation on Safe Migration and Sustainable Reintegration in the Context of the Covid-19 Crisis."
The Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) and Brac hosted the event at Hotel Pan Pacific Sonargaon Dhaka yesterday.
Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmed was present at the programme as the chief guest.
He said recruiting agencies – including governmental and non-governmental organisations, various development agencies and international organisations – need to work together to address the crisis in immigration sector caused by the pandemic.
Emphasising the need to create a complete database of expatriate workers, the minister said this is instrumental in ensuring proper management of expatriate workers and services for them.
"The database should not only include how many people went abroad and how many returned home, it must also contain all kinds of information," added the minister.
Imran Ahmed observed that the data collection system is not sound enough. It shows only a low number of unskilled people.
"If the data is wrong, planning will also be wrong. So, we want to overhaul the system," he said.
Highlighting various steps taken for expatriate workers during the pandemic, the minister said, "The government has announced a loan of Tk700 crore for expatriate workers."
But most of the money is left in the bank, and expatriate workers have not yet had the expected response even after loan conditions were relaxed, said the minister.
According to the ministry concerned, 443 returnee migrants have taken out loans worth Tk18 crore so far.
The government allocated a total Tk700 crore – Tk200 crore from the Wage Earners Welfare Board and Tk500 crore from the Prime Minister's fund – for returnee expatriates during the pandemic-led crisis.
The minister mentioned that Cambodia, Romania, Croatia, Albania, China, and Africa will likely be the future labour markets for Bangladeshi workers.
In his address, Secretary to the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare Ahmed Munirush Salehin said, "After Covid-19 hit the country, we basically had five types of challenges in front of us."
They were: how to ensure jobs for those who are abroad, how to ensure a safe return of those who want to come back, how to send back those who have returned, how to reintegrate those who will stay in the country, and how to generate new overseas employment opportunities.
"We are working on addressing all those challenges. We are also trying to create awareness. However, those who work at grass roots level can do the awareness-building task very well by going from door to door," said the secretary.
BMET Director General Md Shamsul Alam said even though a record number of remittances have been received this year due to various positive steps taken by the government, the country's target in terms of employment creation abroad will not be fulfilled.
This year only two lakh people have gone abroad. "We have taken care of the whole situation through effective steps," he said.
In his address, Brac Executive Director Asif Saleh emphasised the need for forming an effective database.
"We need to make arrangements so skilled people can enter the new labour market," he said.
Stressing the need for massive digitisation of the immigration sector, the BRAC high-up said, "We are reaping the benefits of digitisation in many areas, including smart cards and e-passports."
But it is not enough, he said, adding that the entire immigration sector needs to be digitised in such a manner that information of every migrant – going abroad or returning home – should be in the government database.
BMET additional Director General (Training) Mir Khairul Alam and Head of Brac Migration Programme Shariful Hasan were the keynote speakers at the programme.
Among others, Nathalie Chuard, Ambassador of Switzerland to Bangladesh, and Baira president lawmaker Benjir Ahmed spoke at the session.