The Financial Express

Protect returnee migrant workers in distress

Published: May 05, 2020 21:23:20 | Updated: May 07, 2020 22:35:05

Protect returnee migrant workers in distress

Many of the migrant workers whose hard-earned money had contributed to the country's foreign exchange reserve in a big way have in a cruel twist of fate lost everything in the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic. Those hapless migrant workers have lost their jobs amid the recession that set in their host economies following the lockdowns those governments enforced in their bid to fight the virus. Worse still, during such uncertainties, many of those thrown out of employment have been deported to Bangladesh. The upshot of it all is that these returnee migrant workers and their families have been rendered destitute overnight and have little to fall back upon.

Needless to say, these suddenly impoverished families of the migrant workers are in need of immediate succour just as the jobless need some form of rehabilitation. Unfortunately, as these families are not enlisted as being 'below the poverty level' to be covered by the government's programme of providing ration to some five million ultra-poor, they may not be eligible for the succour distributed to these vulnerable groups.  What has added to their woes is the fact that as they were never used to seeking government assistance usually provided to the marginalised section of the population, they may now feel shy of standing in line with the poor and the indigent to get such official assistance.

A rights body that keep track of these migrant workers so caught up in the pandemic-inflicted crisis in their host countries for the last one month have found that some 40 per cent of them lost their jobs with the result that their families at home did not receive any remittance money during this period. And around 25 per cent of these remittance-deprived families are now in a serious predicament and finding it hard to make ends meet. 

Since this is a nationwide emergency situation created by an unforeseen pandemic, any government assistance extended to the affected and the needy people should also reach them. It is a disaster situation and like any other disaster-stricken people, the migrant workers' families also have the right to receive the humanitarian aid and various government benefits including rations or relief. If they have not already approached the government agencies through which the official help is being extended, it is then those official agencies' responsibility to reach out to them.

This is important because one cannot forget the fact that these migrant workers' earnings abroad in hard currency kept the country's economy in right shape. The nation, therefore, owes them a lot. And it is time we paid them back. Significantly, their potential for future employment overseas, given their work experience, cannot be lost sight of. Also they can be retrained to suit any new job requirement. So, the government agencies and public representatives running the emergency aid activities should find these families out of their own accord and help them out. And to locate them should not be a problem, as their whereabouts must be within the knowledge of the public representatives of the localities in question. The government, especially, its Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment ministry should come forward and extend all help they need to survive these difficult times.


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