Nothing could console Abdul Khalek on that fateful night when a thief stole his auto-rickshaw from his home.
Khalek had a few unsuccessful stints as a migrant worker in Saudi Arabia. Unsuccessful in the sense that he barely managed to pay off the debt he incurred from incurring expenses like agent fee, air fare, visa fee etc. He could not change his fortune because his earnings were small.
After returning to Bangladesh empty handed the first time, he tried again, but he ended up with the same low paying job in the desert country. Soon he decided to do something in his own country.
Back then auto-rickshaws were popular with youths in many districts as a way of earning money. Its price too was rising. Whereas two-passenger capacity autos cost around a lakh, the larger ones, which carry up to six passengers, would cost double [now these autos cost up to Tk2.5 lakh]. Khalek took a loan and bought a large auto.
But there were too many auto-rickshaws in his area compared to passengers, and before he could make enough money, the vehicle got stolen.
His elder brother Latif faced similar difficulties as a returnee migrant worker.
When Latif tried to settle down in Bangladesh after several prosperous years in Saudi Arabia, he set up a grocery store. But his capital dried up in two years as he had no idea how to run the business or make a profit.
To make matters worse for Latif, the other grocery store in the locality, which has been operating for years, lowered the price of their goods. So, customers continued sticking to this store.
When Latif realised business was not his cup of tea, the middle-aged man went back to Saudi Arabia.
More than 86 lakh Bangladeshis went abroad as migrant workers in the last 14 years, according to the BMET (Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training). Naturally, these workers return to Bangladesh at some point to settle down. But this transition back to the country often turns out as very challenging for the returnee migrants, due to various factors.
Latif and Khalek are a few of the many migrant workers who struggle to rebuild a career once they return home permanently. The Business Standard recently interviewed around a dozen workers who shared their struggle stories.
The work skills they develop in the host countries are often not applicable in Bangladesh. For example, a dishwashing job abroad might keep your family well-off in Bangladesh, but this skill will not get you a well-paying job at home.
Shakirul Islam, chairman of Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Programme (OKUP), said that when migrant workers return back to their villages, they don't have job opportunities matching their skills.
"Sometimes, there are suggestions to employ them in Bangladesh based on the skills they developed abroad. But it is not possible in real life, because we don't have the infrastructural mechanism or system for their reintegration," Shakirul said.
As a result, the returnees go for self-employment or entrepreneurship.
Singapore-based migrant worker Mohammad Ali, for example, wants to start something at home. He has been in the Southeast Asian island country for many years with success. Now a married man, he wants to start well in his own country and open a business.
"I don't know what to do," Ali said. "Any business idea I have, each time I come back home, I see many have already tried or are doing it. Also, I don't know how to start a business in the first place."
He fears that he will lose his money by investing it in something stupid, like many in his circle did.
Another migrant worker, Tahsin, who recently returned from Saudi Arabia wants to settle here but the complications of setting up a business overwhelms him as well.
"I think I will have to go back [to Saudi Arabia]," he said.
OKUP is currently working with the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment on a reintegration of the migrant workers project that involves six other groups. The project rolled into the field level this June.
Shakirul said they emphasise on three aspects while training returnee migrants on reintegration back home as self-employed business holders.
"We train them in a combination of skills and potential of the returnee migrants, their resources, and local market opportunity," he said. "And there is follow up support, which deals with market linkages."
"When they return after many days, they don't understand the condition of the country, they don't have an idea on how to approach it," he said.
The returnees usually fail in business because they don't consider these three aspects thoroughly while attempting to open a business, he added.
While the recently taken programme will require time to see impact, Shakirul said that by providing these people with first-hand privileges of connections and counselling at the district level (as they are trying to do), it is possible for the project to serve a large number of returnee migrants across the nation.