State Minister for Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Imran Ahmed yesterday said high migration cost was “killing migrant workers”.
“Migration cost is killing migrant workers…let’s work together and in a way that the migrant workers are not hurt,” he said at a regional consultation on Global Compact on Migration (GCM) at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Dhaka.
Urging all to act responsibly to protect migrants’ rights, Imran said the government is considering bringing migrant workers under an insurance coverage and offering cash incentives to them to ensure their well-being.
He said some one crore Bangladeshi migrants send home $15 billion a year, but the figure could have been $20 to $25 billion if all the remittance transactions were done through the formal channels.
The programme was jointly organised by the Bangladesh foreign ministry, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and International Labour Organization (ILO).
According to experts, migration cost goes up due to involvement of manpower brokers in several stages and visa trading. It eventually leads to forced labour and debt bondage in the destination countries. The migrants also face physical and psychological troubles.
Under such a reality, the UN late last year adopted the GCM, a non-legally binding global deal proposed by Bangladesh, aimed at better governing migration, ensuring migrant rights and well-being in the migration cycle -- pre-departure, arrival, stay, and return.
The countries are now working on ways to implement the compact. Bangladesh has already drafted a migration governance framework.
Syed Saiful Haque, chairman of WARBE Development Foundation, said policies are being framed in Bangladesh, but it faces some tough challenges in regulating the recruiting agencies, illegal manpower brokers, visa trading and reintegration of the returnees into the society.
Last year, Malaysia suspended hiring workers from Bangladesh alleging corruption in the recruitment process and syndication of agents as each jobseeker had to spend up to Tk 4 lakh against the fixed migration cost of Tk 40,000.
Earlier, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia had suspended labour recruitment from Bangladesh citing malpractices in the process. Before the suspension, each jobseeker had to spend Tk 4 to 5 lakh to secure a job in those Middle Eastern countries in 2012.
Saiful said such issues should be addressed on an urgent basis.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam said Bangladesh is committed to protect the migrants as it is an integral part of the country’s development.
“We constantly advocate for ethical recruitment, opening up of new legal pathways, responsible migration, decent work and protection of migrants’ rights.”
He also stressed the need for lowering the cost of remitting to Bangladesh and ensuring informed and sustainable voluntary return of workers.
Protecting migrants’ rights also requires stronger global cooperation, the state minister said. “Closing the borders to stop the flow of migrants is not the solution or safeguard to uphold a country’s sovereign authority.”
Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque said disorderly migration creates disruptive forces, including smugglers and traffickers, and a “vicious cycle” that leads to vulnerability of migrants. This has to be turned into a “virtuous cycle” of migration, he added.
He said migrants are sometimes “politicised” and “militarised” and are seen as destructive to the social fabric in a society. If governed properly, migration can be beneficial for all, the secretary observed.
Migration rights activist Colin Rajah called for stronger roles of the migrant rights bodies in the respective countries to help shape policies and implement those to uphold their rights.
He also urged the countries and UN bodies to better accommodate the opinions of the civil society bodies.
Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, secretary general of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira), said the labour-hiring countries should to be taken on board to find sustainable solutions to the perennial governance problems faced by the migrants.
Representatives from the Bangladesh government, the UN and NGOs were present at the programme.