It was just some 40 minutes before the iftar yesterday when a group of people showed up at arrival lounge of Dhaka’s airport, unsure about what to do. At that time, both passengers and airport staff were taking preparation to break the day’s fast.
They were a batch of 200 expatriates who returned home as “failures”, lurking behind a veil of shame for failing the promise of a better life to their families and relatives.
These “failed” expatriates were waiting helplessly to clear immigration – too hungry and penniless to stand strong.
“We had no time. I told our volunteers to arrange Iftar from them quickly,” Shariful Hasan, head of Brac’s Migration Programme, told The Daily Star. “They were starving.”
It was a sight to behold that reawakened the essence of humanity when airport police, Brac volunteers and Expatriate Welfare Desk arranged food for them in a whiff.
“It appeared as if they were eating food of the heavens,” Hasan said.
THE PERIL OF RETURNED EXPATS
On the first Ramadan, about 45 expatriates returned from Oman and Iran. Yesterday, 215 expatriates arrived at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. On the wee hours of today, 105 more returned from Saudi Arabia and 60 more this afternoon from Iran, Libya and Iraq.
According to Brac’s migration centre, they are all back as victims of trafficking, fraudulence or exploitation.
Since they do not have passports or documents, it sometimes takes them for up to two days to clear immigration, Tanvir Hossain, assistant director of Expatriate Welfare Desk, at Dhaka airport, told The Daily Star.
Going abroad with high hopes of earning and changing their fate, they return broke and ashamed. Often, there is no one to greet them at the airports. Several hundred migrants are returning every week after facing deportation mainly from the Middle Eastern countries.
“Our state’s arrangement for expatriates who have returned home is poor,” Brac’s Migration Programme chief Shariful Hasan said. “When they come back, they are mentally broken down and financially also.”
THE SPIRIT OF HUMANITY
Only a handful of migration agencies are engaged round the year to assist these returned expatriates.
Brac’s Migration Programme department has given support to over 2,500 returnees with assistance to immigration and other facilities for over a year now.
The Expatriate Welfare Desk of the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training at airport has been a lot of help too – helping the returnees with immigration, food and even financial assistance at cases for quite some time.
The two agencies have been treating the expatriate returnees with meals - iftar, sehri and dinner.
“The most important thing is, these hungry expatriate returnees do not want our food. All they want is to go back home – back to their families, wives, and children – in peace and as soon as possible,” Tanvir Hossain said.
Shariful Hasan says: “This Ramadan, we hope to continue supporting these returnees. But it is not possible for us to sustain this support without help. We are open to assistance from all corners of the world in this regard.”