Create emergency fund for migrant workers | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 05, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 05, 2020

Create emergency fund for migrant workers

Rights group urges govt

The government must create a fund to sanction grant for Bangladeshi migrant workers who are at the risk of losing jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, demanded Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit yesterday.

In a statement, the migrants rights group said the government should also arrange interest-free loan schemes for migrant workers' family members back home.

The statement was issued during an online press conference arranged by the organisation, addressed by its founding chair Prof Tasneem Siddiqui.

Referring to media reports, Prof Tasneem said some 1.5 lakh Bangladeshi expatriates have been stranded in different Middle Eastern countries including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Many of them who do not have valid visa were passing days in hardship, reads the statement.

The rights group also placed some short- and long-term proposals before the government for the protection of migrant workers and their family members.

It said some labour receiving Middle Eastern countries including Saudi Arabia have already announced that they will bear Covid-19 related healthcare costs for both undocumented and regular migrant workers. The government should immediately call upon other countries yet to announce such facilities.

The organisation said, in many cases, migrant workers live in congested and unhygienic conditions. As a result, it is not possible for them to maintain "safe distance". The Bangladesh missions abroad have to make migrant workers aware of taking effective measures for their protection.

The rights group also urged Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira) to prepare separate lists of aspirant migrant workers. One list should be comprised of workers who paid money partially and are yet to get necessary documents while the other will be of those who are all set to travel abroad for jobs.

Baira should create an immediate fund to financially support families of workers who were set to travel as well as those who made full payment for their recruitment. Besides, Baira should arrange return of money to those workers whose visa process have not started yet, it said.

Once the coronavirus crisis ends, migrant workers -- whose recruitment process was completed -- should be given the chance to go overseas on a priority basis and without adding any new fee, it added.

Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit also urged the authorities concerned to develop a database of returning migrant workers and ensure protection of female migrant workers abroad amid Covid-19 outbreak.

Due to economic impact of coronavirus there is a chance that international human trafficking syndicates will become active as many Bangladeshi migrant workers who are now losing their jobs will try for overseas jobs again. As long-term measure, the organisation called upon the government to take precautionary measures to tackle such human trafficking syndicates.

In the statement, it also raised concern that in some areas of the country returning expatriates faced harassment and were blamed for spreading coronavirus.

Expatriates also faced harassment when they went for medical treatment, said the organisation, urging all to have a positive outlook towards them.

The migrant rights group also urged all to observe a one-minute silence on April 12 morning in remembrance of those Bangladeshis died of the disease so far.

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