About Tk 146 crore has been disbursed so far from the government's Tk 700-crore special reintegration loan fund for pandemic-affected returnee migrants, Expatriates' Welfare Minister Imran Ahmad said yesterday.
"[From] July to December, we had the disbursement… of only Tk 12 crore," he said, adding the loan disbursement got pace since January this year.
He was addressing the inaugural session of a two-day international conference -- held virtually -- on reintegration of returnee migrants.
The minister said they are expecting loan disbursement to reach over Tk 200 crore by the end of June.
Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) in collaboration with Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) and British Council's project Promoting Knowledge for Accountable Systems (Prokas) organised the two-day conference on "Reintegration of Returnee Migrants Affected by the Covid-19 Pandemic".
Speakers during the inaugural session stressed for multi-dimensional approach from the government for ensuring social and economic reintegration of returnee migrants.
About 4.28 lakh Bangladeshi migrant workers have returned home in about a year amid the pandemic, said Imran Ahmad, addressing the event as chief guest.
He said they have taken various initiatives for the returnees, including the special loan support, and providing them with recognition of prior learning (RPL) certificates.
The minister said about 1.44 lakh migrant workers have gone overseas in the first three months of this year through official channels.
Also, the country received about US$18.4 billion in remittance till March in the ongoing fiscal, which is already higher than US$ 18.2 billion that the country received in remittance in the last fiscal year, he said.
Mentioning migrant workers' immense contribution to the country's economy, RMMRU Executive Director Prof CR Abrar said unfortunately, their reintegration had all along been a major issue, which was triggered by the pandemic.
"Many migrants have come back under very dire circumstances, and they have not been able to make ends meet," he said.
The government has been taking various efforts to ease the situation but it is a herculean task, he added.
While migration is what a worker does for himself or herself, reintegration is what a state can do for the migrant and for the state as a whole in terms of development as a strategy, said MFA Coordinator William Gois.
"Reintegration can be the engine for creating opportunities at home for each returning migrant," he said.
He added the two-day conference can be an opportunity to see reintegration as an "untapped potential" of development agenda in terms of skills, resources and knowledge.
There are at least four Sustainable Development Goals which are directly related to reintegration, said former foreign secretary M Shahidul Haque.
He said reintegration has always been a "very sensitive, contested and debated issue" and continues to remain so.
Mohamed Yusuf, governance adviser of the UK government's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, also addressed the inaugural session.
Yesterday, three more sessions took place highlighting different aspects of returnees' social and economic reintegration where experts and migrant rights activists from various organisations took part.