Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmad yesterday told the parliament that the number of Bangladeshi migrant workers returning from abroad due to the global coronavirus pandemic is "not alarming".
The minister gave the statement under section 300 of the rules of procedure of parliament.
In the statement, Imran Ahmad said, "A small number of our workers, who were in deportation centres due to coronavirus pandemic, have returned as different countries have deported irregular workers."
The minister said, "According to the Expatriate Welfare Desk, a total of 1,11,111 workers have returned to the country from April 1 to September 6. Many of them have returned at the end of their tenure or due to lack of work."
The minister, however, said it was feared that the economic recession and the coronavirus would disrupt the labour markets of the major employer countries, leaving many workers unemployed.
The number of returnee workers, however, has not become alarming, he said. "This is due to the roles of the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," he added.
He said, "According to the estimates of the past years, about 60,000 workers have gone abroad from Bangladesh every month. From January to August, 2019, 4.60 lakh workers went abroad. But by August 2020, only 1.76 lakh workers have gone abroad. This is because from April to August this year, no worker could go abroad."
The number of Bangladeshi workers abroad is more than one crore. Many had to return home because of the pandemic. Brac's migration program estimates that the number of people returning to the country would be around 2.75 lakh if those who were stranded before April are taken into account.
The minister highlighted the rehabilitation of returning workers, saying, "Initiatives have been taken for the social and economic rehabilitation of the returning workers."
Emergency relief assistance of Tk 13 crore has been provided to the workers abroad to deal with the crisis. Initiatives have been taken to bring the workers back to the country and for their reintegration after return, the minister said.
He further said, "Despite our sincere efforts in recent times, our workers in some countries have fallen victim to undesirable issues. Many of them did not go abroad legally. Legal and punitive actions have been taken against those involved in this process."
The minister also said that the ministry is working to retain the labour market and find new markets in the future. "The ministry is working to send skilled workers abroad as soon as the situation returns to normal," he said.
He also demanded to set Tk 100 as coronavirus testing fee for expatriate workers instead of Tk 200.