Several migrant rights bodies on Sunday said the proposed budget for fiscal year 2020-21 has paid little attention to allocate specific funds for migrant workers and their families.
In a joint statement, 16 organisations urged the government to increase allocation for migrants who have returned and the migration sector during the Covid-19 pandemic.
They demanded an allocation of a minimum of Tk1,000 crore for the vulnerable returnees and their families under the proposed amount of the social safety net programmes in the budget.
The organisations are OKUP, BNSK, Brac, IID, WARBE, INAFI, BOMSA, BASUG, KARMOJIBI NARI, MJF, BNPS, DEVCOM, IMA, AWAJ FOUNDATION, Migration News, and FILMS 4 PEACE Foundation.
The human rights bodies said remittance is one of the main driving forces of the country's economy. Even during this global crisis, expats did not stop sending money back home.
"However, the national budget allocated Tk641 crore for the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment for fiscal year 2020-21, which is one of the lowest. In addition to the allocation of Tk641 for the ministry, the proposed budget allocated Tk500 crore as soft loan for the returnees through the Probashi Kalyan Bank," read the statement.
"The amounts are grossly inadequate compared to the contribution of the migrant workers to the economy, and their needs. The government has increased allocation for the social safety net programmes and proposed to widen the coverage. Despite substantial demands, the issue of inclusion of the migrant workers and their families in the social safety net programmes is yet to be addressed," it added.
"There was no clear plan in the finance minister's budget speech about the livelihoods of the influx of returnees who are projected to return due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which is disappointing.
"Since migrant workers were hit hard by this global health crisis, the government should allocate more funds for the welfare of migrant workers. We want to remind everyone that the Covid-19 pandemic left millions of Bangladeshi migrants jobless worldwide," said the statement.
The rights bodies demanded ensuring proper rehabilitation and sustainable employment for the affected migrant workers and the families through allocation of necessary amount in the development budget of the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment, and making double the current 2 percent incentive rate provided on remittance sent by the migrant workers.