Financial assistance sought for jobless migrant workers

Financial assistance sought for jobless migrant workers

Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) has recommended that the government arrange interest-free loans for the family members of Bangladesh migrant workers who have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The rights group has also called for setting up a fund for the jobless workers.

Dr Tasneem Siddiqui, founding chair of the organisation, put forward the recommendations while addressing a virtual press conference held on Saturday afternoon.

She read out a written statement titled "Migrants' protection in corona crisis: Recommendations of RMMRU".

Tasneem Siddiqui said, "The migrant Bangladeshis have plunged into a great crisis due to the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

"According to media reports, around 1.5 lakh Bangladeshis have been stranded in Middle Eastern countries which include Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The undocumented workers are suffering much from unemployment and hunger."

She urged the government to invest public money for the welfare of the migrant workers.

Dr Ahmed Munirus Saleheen, additional secretary (migrant welfare wing) of the Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry, said, "We have decided to help our migrant workers financially during this global crisis. An additional fund of Tk3 crore of wage earners welfare board has been sent to the labour wing of Bangladeshi embassies in several countries. The workers can contact the wing."

"We are also mulling over the proposal of arranging interest-free loans. A meeting will be held on Sunday in this regard," he added.

RMMRU also urged the Bangladesh International Recruiting Agencies (Baira) to create a fund with donations from Baira members.

The fund will be used to assist those migrant workers' families, who could not go to their destination countries due to the coronavirus crisis after getting an appointment or have paid full money for their migration.

Tasneem Siddiqui said Baira should return money to those whose visa processing was not started yet.

Expressing concerns over the fact that in some areas returning expatriates, especially those from Italy, were being harassed by villagers and blamed for spreading coronavirus in the country, RMMRU urged all to have a positive outlook towards expatriates.

According to Baira, around 1.5 lakh workers who had completed the process for overseas jobs and were waiting to leave the country are now stranded at their homes after all flights bound to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar were suspended.

Baira Secretary General Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman said, "We will pay back all the money if the workers cannot go abroad after the pandemic. The government should take proper measures regarding the financial aspect of the workers and recruiting agencies."

According to Bangladesh Bank data, remittance inflow to Bangladesh dropped by around 12 percent year-on-year in March this year as the global coronavirus outbreak has hit the global labour market hard.

RMMRU feared the remittance inflow will decrease further in the upcoming months.

Remittance inflow kept showing strong growth after the government had announced a two percent cash incentive on foreign remittance.

RMMRU recommended the government to consider increasing the rate of the incentive to keep the remittance flow stable.

"The government has to request the migrants workers' destination countries to keep remittance processing institutions active so that our workers can send money home in the current situation", said Tasneem Siddiqui.

Pointing out that there was no policy framework regarding the required services for migrant workers in a crisis moment like the current coronavirus pandemic, she said the government should prepare a policy now.

RMMRU also mentioned that 60 Bangladeshis died in different countries after getting infected with the novel coronavirus. The organisation put forward a mourning proposal for the deceased workers.

The organisation also urged all Bangladeshis at home and abroad to observe a one-minute silence for the deceased migrant workers at 9:00 am on April 12.