The Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) today demanded that the government create a fund for Bangladeshi migrant workers who are at risk of losing their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, the migrants' rights group said the government should also arrange interest-free loans for the workers' family members back home.
The statement was issued during a virtual press conference arranged by the organisation. Prof Tasneem Siddiqui, RMMRU founding chair, addressed the press conference.
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 migrant workers who do not have valid visas are passing days in hardship without sufficient food, she said.
In the statement, RMMRU placed some short- and long-term proposals before the government for the protection of migrant workers and their family members.
RMMRU said some labour receiving ME countries, including Saudi Arabia, have already announced that they will bear Covid-19 related healthcare costs for both undocumented and regular migrant workers.
The Bangladesh government should immediately call upon other countries to do the same.
RMMRU said many migrant workers live in congested and unhygienic conditions and as a result, the practice of physical distancing is hard for them.
So, the Bangladesh missions abroad have to raise awareness among the migrant workers on effective measures to protect themselves.
RMMRU also urged Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira) to prepare separate lists of aspirant migrant workers.
One list will comprise of workers who paid money partially but were yet to get documents and the other will be for those about to travel for overseas jobs.
Baira should also create an immediate fund to financially support families of workers who were about to travel and those who paid full money, RMMRU said.
Besides, Baira should return money to those whose visa process hasn't started yet.
Also, once the current crisis passes, workers whose recruitment process was almost completed should be given priority for overseas placements without any new fee, RMMRU said.
It urged the authorities concerned to develop a database of returning migrant workers and ensure protection of female migrant workers abroad.
The body also expressed concern over a human trafficking syndicates becoming active again as many migrant Bangladeshis without jobs may seek to find jobs abroad.
As a long-term measure, it called upon the government to take precautionary measures to tackle the human trafficking rackets.
In the statement, RMMRU also raised concerns that in some areas returning expatriates were being harassed by villagers and blamed for spreading coronavirus in the country.
They also faced harassment when going for medical treatment, said RMMRU, urging all to have a positive outlook towards expatriates.