Addressing a programme in Dhaka marking the International Migrants' Day 2019 last week, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said stern actions will be taken against fraudulent recruiting agencies so that migrant workers do not fall victim to deception. She asked the recruiting agencies not to send workers just for making money.
The Prime Minister asked the overseas jobseekers to verify job, salary and security measures properly before going to any country as there is registration system here in Bangladesh now. She urged everyone to be careful so that no one is victimised by such fraud.
Meantime, the government has directed the Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry to pay adequate attention so that the workers can go abroad after getting proper training.
Although the International Migrant Day has passed by, yet its significance has not been adequately felt by the labour-sending countries like Bangladesh. Grave concern is being raised by many over an increasing presence of illegal Bangladeshi migrant workers in foreign lands. Although there are no reliable statistics, concerned government bodies say the number of such migrants is rising at more than 0.1 million a year.
There is no denying the fact that most forms of international migration are on the rise, but illegal migration is growing most rapidly around the globe. As migration pressures intensify in sending countries, many receiving countries are tightening admission requirements for legal migrants and asylum-seekers.
Migration is increasingly being recognised as a viable livelihood option and one of the major development issues for Bangladesh. The growth in migration from Bangladesh and the increasing levels of remittances and consequent benefits to the society and the country are facing enormous challenges mainly due to the failure of the government to establish a clearly defined migration policy.
Alongside regular and beneficial migration -- irregular migration, informal channels of remittance and human trafficking continue to result in serious violations of migrants' rights.
In recent years migration is making its way steadily to the top of the international affairs agenda, and the issue has been prioritised by most of the governments because the number of those from the underdeveloped countries who migrate for better economic prospects has grown immensely over the last few decades.
Even though there are legislations to safeguard the interests of the migrant workers, the host governments are often found negligent in implementing those. There are often complications regarding entry due to inappropriate visas, invalid paperwork and dubious job contracts issued by corrupt recruiting agents.
Once in service, the main difficulties reported by migrant workers are low, delayed, partial or prolonged non-payment of salaries, as well as maltreatment by employers and extremely poor working conditions.
Although the country receives a substantial amount of foreign currency from its expatriate workers, it has done little to channel these funds gainfully for the long term economic development of the country. There have been proposals to draw funds of the expatriate workers into industrial bonds to be sold by the government.
Global experts on migration, in a meeting in Dhaka recently, made an eight-point recommendation that mainly focused on building awareness among job seekers, easing the sufferings of the migrants, and reducing migration cost. The recommendations also include close ties between labour-sending and receiving countries, a ban on purchasing visas, strengthening of pre-departure briefings, bilateral agreements, and compliance of ILO guidelines. It was argued that migration costs should not be more than three months' salary of the migrant workers.
Despite so many assurances, high migration cost for the jobseekers abroad could not be brought down. The manpower minister and overseas job related state agencies have failed to reduce the ever-increasing migration cost so far, putting the intending job-seekers under severe strains.
Labour-exporting countries like Bangladesh realise that malpractices, especially high migration costs in overseas recruitment, have been eating up the benefits of migration. There are enough evidences to identify various forms of irregular practices that unduly interfere with the development gains of migration.
Migrant workers are sometimes constrained to overstay beyond their contracted periods, thinking they would be able to repay their debts in addition to remitting money to the country after meeting their subsistence costs. That is when they turn illegal migrants in the eye of the host country. In the process, the country earns a bad name which gets reflected in different ways, one of them being lowering the quota for Bangladeshi workers.
The root cause of high migration cost lies at the receiving end, as brokers play a dominant role in raising the cost. Analysts say if that cost could be lowered to zero, the migration expense could be cut significantly.
Appropriate policies are urgently needed to keep migration cost at a reasonable level, and for the workers to get reasonable returns in the form of earnings from their jobs abroad.
Lately, the government has taken up few moves to facilitate the migrant workers. These among others include creating a base for skilled manpower in every upazila to ensure safety and job security of the workers, and providing 2.0 per cent cash incentive for remitting through legal channel. For this purpose, the government kept aside some Tk 3.5 billion in the national budget.