Migrant workers in Iraq apply to return
Many Bangladeshi migrant workers are going through a tough time in Iraq due to the shutdown enforced in the country.
As job losses are growing among the community, some workers have applied to return home willingly, under a special arrangement undertaken by the Bangladesh embassy in Baghdad.
Meanwhile, International Organization for Migration (IOM) and a local charity organisation have come forward to support Bangladeshi workers. The Bangladesh mission there has also started distributing food supplies.
Iraq is home to about 2-2.5 lakh Bangladeshis. Over 50 percent of them are estimated to be undocumented, said sources at the Bangladesh mission.
Talking with this newspaper yesterday, Ahiduzzaman Liton, head of chancery at Bangladesh embassy in Baghdad, said in the last five days, some 270 Bangladeshis have applied to return home.
They applied under the condition that either their employers or they will have to bear return expenses, he said.
Of the workers, some 15-20 lost their jobs or do not have any income sources, said the official, adding that most of the others are stuck due to air-communication suspension, while several have family problems back home.
He said the number of such workers may rise in the coming days, although it is tough to say how many Bangladeshis will lose their jobs.
Liton said after receiving funds from Bangladesh government, the embassy has already provided food support, and in some cases cash support, to 1,150-1,200 Bangladeshi workers.
"We are expecting to provide similar support to more workers gradually," he said.
Besides, IOM Iraq has provided cash support to nearly 100 Bangladeshi workers so far, while a local foundation also provided similar support to another 400 workers, he added.
Liton said officially, one Bangladeshi has died from Covid-19 in Iraq till date.
An official at IOM Bangladesh confirmed the global organisation's cash support in Iraq.
IOM Iraq on Thursday delivered the first round of cash assistance in Erbil to vulnerable Bangladeshi and Filipino migrants who have lost their incomes due to the pandemic, said a report published on its official website.
Each received USD 182 to enable them to meet essential needs such as food, rent, and utilities, said the report. The recipients were referred to IOM Iraq by their respective embassies.
It commenced screening of over 100 individuals in late April using a vulnerability assessment tool, and expects to receive further referrals.
In the coming days, a second phase of cash assistance will commence.
Like in other countries, migrant workers in Iraq have been disproportionately affected by the global crisis, with widespread layoffs leaving many in a precarious financial situation, unable to meet their basic needs, said the UN migration agency.
"Migrants are among those who have been especially hard hit by the Covid-19 outbreak in Iraq," said IOM Iraq Chief of Mission Gerard Waite in the report.
"Many of them live month-to-month, sending earnings home to their families. The loss of income has left them unable to afford food and at risk of eviction," he added.