Migrant workers’ rights activists on Sunday expressed frustration over the proposed budget for fiscal year 2020-2021 (FY21) as no specific allocation for the migrant workers and their families were in it.
16 migrant rights bodies expressed their reaction in a statement on the proposed budget and urged the government to enhance allocation for migration sector to help overcome impact of COVID-19 pandemic.
The organisations include OKUP, BNSK, BRAC, IID, WARBE, INAFI, BOMSA, BASUG, KARMOJIBI NARI, MJF, BNPS, DEVCOM, IMA , AWAJ FOUNDATION ,Migration news and FILMS 4 PEACE Foundation, according to a press release.
The rights bodies said that remittance is one of the main driving forces of the country’s economy. Expatriates Bangladeshis remitted TK 1.38 trillion in the FY19, while the amount was TK 1.39 trillion in FY20.
Even during this global crisis, the migrants did not stop sending back money. However, the national budget allocated Tk 6.41 billion for the Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment (EWOE) ministry for FY21, which is one of the lowest allocations.
‘Since migrant workers were hit hard by this pandemic, the government should allocate more funds for the welfare of migrant workers,’ the statement said.
The rights groups said that there was no clear plan in the Finance Minister’s budget speech about the livelihoods for the of returnee migrant workers “which is disappointing.”
The organisations reminded that the COVID-19 pandemic left millions of Bangladeshi migrant workers jobless. Almost all of them are facing immense difficulties. Even the government feared that about 1.0 million Bangladeshi are at the risk of deportation due to loss of their jobs.
They mentioned that around 150,000 workers—who were supposed to be migrated soon—couldn't go abroad because of global lockdown and are facing an uncertain future.
In the meantime, the World Bank forecasted the global unemployment rate to increase and the World Bank also projected a 22 per cent drop in Bangladesh's remittance earnings.
But national budget has not adequately addressed any of these issues, they said.
They noted that the migrant workers were yet to get incentives announced by the government for people of different professions including those affected by COVID-19. Many migrants’ families have been facing dire economic crisis including food shortage.
In addition to the allocation of Tk 6.41 billion for the EWOE Ministry, the proposed budget also allocated Tk 5.0 billion as soft loans for the returnee migrant workers through the Probashi Kalyan Bank.
The amounts are grossly inadequate compared to the contribution of the migrant workers to the economy and their needs.
They also noted that the government increased allocation for the social safety net programme and proposed to widen the coverage but despite substantial demands, the issue of inclusion of migrant workers and their families into the social safety net programme is yet be addressed.
They demanded for an allocation of at least TK 10.00 billion for the vulnerable returnee migrant workers and the families under the proposed amount for the social safety net programmes.
Allocation should be enhanced in the development budget of EWOE ministry to ensure proper rehabilitation and sustainable employment opportunities for the affected migrant workers and their families.
The organisations also called for making double the current 2.0 per cent incentive rate provided on remittances sent by migrant workers.