‘Create fund to support migrants, their families’
Sixteen migrant rights bodies and civil society organisations have appealed to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to create a fund for distressed migrants and their families in Bangladesh affected by the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
"We, the 16 organisations, are conveying the plight and expectations of the migrants to you," read the letter, signed by Dr Tasneem Siddiqui, chair of the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) of Dhaka University.
The flow of remittance, which is now $18 billion a year, may dwindle in the future, the letter said, suggesting that the government increase incentives to keep the flow stable and create alternative jobs at home for those who may return after losing jobs abroad.
Migrants working in the Gulf, South-East Asian countries, Europe and America are anxiously awaiting a message from the PM to them, according to the letter.
The letter noted that the migrants, including those working under 'free visa', undocumented ones, small entrepreneurs, service sector employees in the Middle East as well as a large section of those working in Europe are now mostly jobless and without income.
In the current condition, in the absence of remittance, the family members of the migrants in the country face food insecurity, the letter added.
Appreciating the government funds disbursed for assisting the migrants, and its announcement to create a Tk 200 crore fund, the letter said, "To provide for the vulnerable section of one crore migrants and their families, it will require a much larger fund."
"We appeal to you [PM] to create a fund for the migrants from the government exchequer, not depending on the fund (Wage Earners' Welfare Fund) that has been created by the migrants themselves," it read.
The organisations also said the Covid-19 outbreak has prompted a negative mindset among countrymen towards migrants returning from abroad.
"Some were attacked or faced extortion. In some localities, burials of deceased migrants were resisted," the letter said, requesting the PM to issue a compassionate statement and strict directive to the administration to treat migrants with dignity.
Protesting the move by a number of countries to deport irregular migrants, the organisations said according to international law, labour receiving countries must provide protection to all migrants irrespective of their status.
They urged the premier to place this issue in various multilateral forum including United Nations, the letter added.