Several rights bodies have demanded the regularisation of undocumented migrant workers instead of bringing them back giving in to the pressure from some destination countries amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Bangladesh Civil Society for Migration (BCSM) has raised the demand following a government decision to bring back its undocumented migrant workers and detainees from Kuwait, the Maldives, Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
The BCSM is a forum of migrant workers' rights-based 20 NGOs and civil society organisations. "Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit" (RMMRU) is the secretariat of the BCSM.
According to the migration experts and observers, there are possibilities that thousands of Bangladeshi workers are undocumented in these countries.
Tasneem Siddiqui, founding chair of the RMMRU said, "We had an online meeting of BCSM on Wednesday. We urged all the countries concerned not to send back the undocumented migrants workers before regularisation."
"Although there is no estimation, several lakh of Bangladeshi workers became undocumented in different countries. It's an inhuman process to send them back in this global corona crisis. We will conduct campaign in different international migration forums against the initiative," she added.
She told The Business Standard that they would send a letter to the secretary-general of the United Nations to stop the process, and another letter to the prime minister of Bangladesh to protect the migrant workers.
Earlier, Bangladesh government decided to bring back its undocumented migrant workers from a few countries under pressure from those migrants' destinations.
The decision was made in an inter-ministerial meeting last Sunday at the ministry of expatriate welfare and overseas employment.
In this regard, 316 Bangladeshis will be brought back from Kuwait in the preliminary stage. Among them, 125 are undocumented and 190 are convicted detainees in that country.
In that meeting, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said, "Those countries will be blacklisted that will not bring back their undocumented and convicted workers from Kuwait, and work permit of regular workers will not be renewed also."
According to the resolution of the inter-ministerial meeting, the Maldives has started the process of sending back undocumented migrants workers with its own expense.
Around 38,000 undocumented Bangladeshis have been enlisted there. The same process has started in Oman and Bahrain.
Ahmed Munirus Saleheen, additional secretary (Migrant Welfare Wing) of expatriate welfare and overseas employment ministry, told The Business Standard that a follow-up meeting of the previous one would be held Thursday at the ministry of foreign affairs.
Syed Saiful Haque, co-chair of BCSM and chairman of WARBE Development Foundation, said, "We can bring back our undocumented workers only after completing their regularisation process so that they can go back there later."
He also urged the government to ensure financial assistance for the migrant returnees and easy loan schemes for starting new livelihood activities.
Md Salim Reza, secretary of expatriate welfare and overseas employment ministry, said, "We will bring back our workers after scrutinising the list. Only Kuwait has given a list."
According to a government estimation, around 10.3 million workers are working abroad. However, following an unofficial estimation, more than 50 lakh Bangladeshis are working in different middle-eastern countries.