The outbreak of the coronavirus has put thousands of Bangladeshi migrant workers at risk of losing their jobs as the global economy struggles and is likely to enter into a recession. At the same time, declining oil prices could also spell doom for many migrant workers, as Middle Eastern countries account for 70 percent of the remittance that comes into Bangladesh, and Middle Eastern economies that are highly dependent on oil prices may suffer even more.
Many migrants who have already lost their jobs now find themselves stranded in foreign countries in extremely tough conditions. Once countries relax restrictions and air travel resumes, it is expected that a few hundred thousand migrant workers will return to Bangladesh. The UN's International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has issued a statement warning that the most vulnerable of the returning Bangladeshi migrants will require immediate support to meet their basic needs.
According to the IOM, this support will have to come in three stages. The first stage is to provide humanitarian and medical assistance before they return to Bangladesh. The second stage is to provide immediate assistance upon their arrival, as many of them may not even have the money to return home. And the final stage will include social reintegration and social recovery assistance.
As our economy will also suffer because of the outbreak, it will be a difficult challenge for the government to create enough employment to make up for the jobs that are lost abroad. Therefore, the government needs to start formulating plans to achieve just that from now on. Besides creating new jobs for returning migrants, the government could consider granting them loans to set up their own businesses, as well as provide skills training programmes to help them regain employment quicker. All of this will require a lot of funds and we hope the IOM and other international agencies will provide their full support to the Bangladesh government during these difficult times.