Reintegration of returnee migrants: Loan requirements too hard to meet

Returnee migrant workers find it difficult to meet the reintegration loan eligibility set by the Probashi Kallyan Bank.

Also, there are discrepancies between the bank's loan disbursement rule and the practices by its officials concerned in this regard.

This was revealed in a recent study by Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program (Okup), a migrant rights group.

Going beyond the relevant rule, bank officials ask the loan seekers to use government officials as guarantor, according to the study titled "Sustainable Economic Reintegration of Bangladeshi Migrant Workers: The Role of the Probashi Kallyan Bank", published early last month.

It also found that returnee migrants willing to invest in businesses face difficulties in submitting up-to-date trade licence and signed blank cheques of their bank accounts and also that of the guarantors.

Bankers even ask for a six month's bank statement, though there is no mention about it in the relevant rule, the report said.

Okup Chairperson Shakirul Islam, also a researcher of the study, said apart from parent, sibling, child or spouse of a loan applicant, a socially important well-off person can be the guarantor for a loan, but they often cannot arrange such a guarantor.

"One of the reasons behind this is the returnee migrants become socially detached due to long stay abroad," he told The Daily Star.

Also, many feel hesitant about seeking loan-related support from their solvent relatives, Shakirul said, adding that many returnees in rural areas don't even have a solvent relative.

Considering all these problems, only the family members of the loan applicants should be accepted as guarantor, he observed.

For reintegration loans, the bank seeks up to two guarantors, depending on the loan amount.

Many applicants cannot provide six months' bank statements because they did not maintain accounts from abroad, said Shakirul.

Okup conducted the study on 150 returnee migrants. Of them, 130 were assisted by the migrant rights group in processing loan applications in Dhaka, Cumilla, Faridpur, Munshiganj, Narayanganj, and Narsingdi.

Of the 130 applicants, only 16 could avail loans till last month.

Most respondents applied for loans under the bank's "Special Reintegration Loan" scheme, said Shakirul.

Saiful Islam, 31, who returned from Malaysia in May last year, said he visited the Munshiganj Sadar branch of the Probashi Kallyan Bank in October last year for a Tk 3 lakh reintegration loan to expand his small dairy farm.

He said the bankers told him that he would have to wait due to fund shortage.

Saiful went to the branch again in April this year and was told that he would get a maximum loan of Tk 1.5 lakh. However, the bank did not approve the loan application till date.

"Bankers told me that they have already scrutinised my documents and that they would assess my properties early next month," he told The Daily Star yesterday over the phone.

Expressing frustration, he said he could have made a good profit from his farm if he was granted the loan promptly.

The state-run Probashi Kallyan Bank had launched the special scheme in July 2020 for migrants who returned home amid the pandemic. Family members of the migrants who died abroad are also eligible for the loan.

The maximum loan amount for an individual is Tk 5 lakh. For a group of five applicants, the amount is Tk 25 lakh. The loan carries an interest rate of 4 percent and the maximum repayment period is five years.

Apart from the Special Reintegration Loan, the bank provides regular reintegration loan, woman rehabilitation loan, and self-employment loan to the returnee expatriates.

Noor Alam Sardar, general manager of Probashi Kallyan Bank, claimed that some loan-related problems mentioned in the Okup report did not exist.

He said the bank provides reintegration loan services as per its rules and guidelines.

Some recommendations made in the Okup report could be considered for the bank's future operations following management-level discussions, Noor Alam told The Daily Star.

According to the report, the bank disbursed Tk 169.15 crore among 6,384 returnee migrants in 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 fiscal years under its Special Reintegration Loan scheme.

It recommended making the loan eligibility requirements easier for the returnee expatriates.


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